After a disappointing finish last year, François D’haene is back to take another crack at the Western States 100. In the following interview, François talks about what went wrong in last year’s race, what his training has looked like this year, and what he thinks about setting an FKT on Corsica’s GR20 so close to Western States.
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François D’haene Pre-2016 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with François D’haene before the 2016 Western States 100. How are you, François?
François D’haene: Fine. Not too bad.
iRunFar: Last year you were at Western States and did not have the run you wanted. What happened?
D’haene: Not at all. I had a big stomach problem. It was really long from March to July to find the solution. Now, the problem has gone. I hope I will just have a complete race with good feelings during all the race. I will try to see the finish line as fast as possible.
iRunFar: What does bring you back here to the race again?
D’haene: Because I was really frustrated—not about the place, because I finished the race in good position. But I was really frustrated about… yeah, I could really run the first part until Foresthill. I felt really good. Then it was impossible for me to assimilate food and water and everything. I was crampy everywhere. It was like I walked back to the river. Yeah, I just want to finish the race in normal sensation.
iRunFar: So, a stronger finish. You did get to run the second half of that course even when you weren’t feeling so good. What do you think about all that flatter terrain at the end? Have you trained specifically for that?
D’haene: No, not at all. I trained a lot for an attempt in Corsica. It was three weeks ago. It’s very, very technical. It’s always on the rock, all the trail. It’s really technical. I think it’s important to do some fast and flats, but the most important thing I think is to adapt to the warm and to adapt to the distance. It’s not really fast, fast.
iRunFar: You ran the GR20 and set a new record on it. Do you think the heat and the distance were good training for Western States?
D’haene: Yeah, in my mind I was thinking about this challenge until December. I know it’s really short between the two. It’s only three weeks. But GR20 was not a race. You don’t push like a race. You’re always concentrating on your feelings and all the distance and you need to adapt all the time. At the finish line, you are destroyed, but you are not destroyed like a race because you don’t push. In my mind I was always thinking that in three weeks I will run Western States. Even the week after or two days after I was able to walk in the mountains with the children. I had a nice training week last week. I have no pain. It’s a big challenge. I think it’s not good to have a big race like that and only three weeks and another big race. But if you program it on the year that there’s only three weeks between the two, and then I have a long time for recovery, yeah, I think we will see but I think it will be okay.
iRunFar: Why did you choose the three weeks? It’s not a race. You could do it at any time. Why did you do it there rather than the beginning of May?
D’haene: Even the beginning of June there’s a lot of snow in Corsica because it’s a little bit high mountain. Even three weeks ago it was at limits with the weather and the conditions. It was impossible to push it before. If I put it after Western States, I think a race is more hard for you for recovery. There’s the jet lag. I think it was impossible to put it after.
iRunFar: Why did you choose to do that, Corsica, at all?
D’haene: For me, it’s really important because they changed a little bit of the race. Now I have the opportunity to make a lot of races around the world and it’s incredible, but Corsica was really different. It was just a small team around me. It was like an adventure race. We shared it with a very big friend of mine. We all went together. For all the team it was a big adventure—for them and for me. For them, they push a lot, and for me, we share a lot. It was just different. We will remember this experience for all of my life. I think it’s important each year to keep motivated and to keep pleasure. Some races are always important for me, but some new adventures are important, too. Yeah, it was really important to try it.
iRunFar: In January, you had a really good race at the Hong Kong 100k. That’s more than five months ago. How has your fitness come since then?
D’haene: Normally in January I don’t run a lot because it’s my ski season, but because last year I had stomach problems, I chose to train again in September. In December, I had a nice race Hong Kong, too, and then I push again through January. Then I stopped my running season and I ski and do ski mountaineering at Pierra Menta and another race in France. Then at the end of March, I continued to have a long training in ski mountaineering, and I started running again small distances. For Corsica, I just wanted to arrive really fresh without long training. Ski mountaineering was perfect because until May, I could train a lot. Then at the beginning of May, I started long training in mountain trail running. It was, for me, I don’t stop since January, but I change a little bit my sport and change my way of training. That’s why I feel a little bit fresh.
iRunFar: You feel fresh and strong?
D’haene: We will see, eh? We cannot say. In ultra-trail, you cannot say, “I will win,” or “I will beat something.” You can say, “Yeah, I can have good feeling on something,” but it’s a very long distance. It’s very warm. This is the magic of ultra-trail. You cannot say, “I will finish strong,” or “I will be the best,” or something like that. Otherwise, it’s impossible to finish or you are really lucky. No, you need to be humble before ultra trail. It’s the most important thing in ultra trail.
iRunFar: Do you think it’s important to also, for someone in your position, to be trained and think it’s possible to win? Saturday morning, do you go to the line and think, I’ve trained well.
D’haene: I think a lot of possibilities of what I can do. Maybe I’m not as fresh as I can be. If I didn’t do Corsica, maybe I’d be better. I think before this week it was a good feeling. Now it’s just a little bit of relaxing before the race. I hope everything will be okay before the race.
iRunFar: Relax and enjoy, and good luck on Saturday.
D’haene: Thank you. Good luck to all the runners who will be there. Hopefully the warm conditions will be not so hot.
D’haene: Thanks for the interview.