After two tries and two misses, the third time is a charm for François D’haene at the 2018 Western States 100. In the following interview, François talks about how the early men’s race dynamics played out, how he never felt really good or really bad, how the heat bothered him less than he expected, and how he endeavored to move strong late in the race to maintain his second-place position.
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with Francois D’haene. He’s the second-place finisher of the 2018 Western States Endurance Run. Congratulations, Francois.
Francois D’haene: Thank you very much. I’m very happy.
iRunFar: Third time is a charm here at Western States.
D’haene: Yes, it takes time for me to reach the finish line like I like, but yesterday was not so bad. I didn’t have my best feelings, I think, but I tried to keep moving strongly. I’m very happy to finish second here behind the strong winner. I’m happy.
iRunFar: Talk about that for a minute, feeling like you didn’t have your best feelings, what was going on?
D’haene: I don’t know. During the morning, I was not feeling able to go so fast, so I said, Maybe you should be going slowly until the river because everyone says the race starts at the river, so I had to move carefully to the river, but then when I arrived at the river, I felt this way, too.
iRunFar: So you didn’t feel any better?
D’haene: No, so I said,Okay, it’s fine. At Foresthill, I knew Jim [Walmsley]was 45 minutes in front of me, so I said, Okay, maybe I can keep this time between him and I, but if I do that, I will be desperate and maybe somebody will catch me. So I preferred second place here will be nice. I was afraid with the warm…
iRunFar: You never know what could happen.
D’haene: Yes, I was really afraid with how warm it was in the canyons, so I said, Maybe I’ll just try to make it to the finish line, and everything was okay.
iRunFar: So I saw on your social media in the months before the race, you’d said that the hardest parts of this race for you were the heat and having to run the whole time. How did those things go for you yesterday?
D’haene: As for the warm, I was pretty surprised, Okay, it was really warm, and for sure your performance decreases…
iRunFar: It is for everybody, isn’t it?
D’haene: I think it’s the same for everybody. With my hat, and I put something here, and I had a lot of ice, I think with the warm, I was really surprised that… I was thinking it would be worse for me, but it was okay. But the worst part is you have to run, run, run, run, running, and run again, and run again. Sometimes it’s four hours running without walking.
iRunFar: Thank you for an aid station to stop.
D’haene: Yeah, my legs were just bleh… I don’t usually do it (run), so it was hard for them. I like when you walk and descend, and walk and descend, but it was part of the game and I was here for that. I tried it, but it’s totally different than alpine running.
iRunFar: Totally different. Talk a bit about the men’s competition. You and Jim Walmsley, and a couple of the other men were actually together or close by for quite sometime.
D’haene: Yes, for 40-50k. I think Jim started slowly—not “slowly,” but took it easy.
iRunFar: Slower than previously.
D’haene: Yeah, we discussed a lot. I just took my place. I was behind another Frenchman, Erik Clavery, and I said, Yeah, maybe it’s good because I don’t push a lot behind him. It’s okay maybe until Foresthill or Michigan Bluff. Jim was a little bit in front. It’s good, because he’s alone and I’m easy behind Eric. Then, it was more and more difficult for Eric, and then I had to go in front of him. Then, I was alone on the big forest road where it’s flat. If you don’t run this part, I don’t think it’s very good because… maybe for Jim it’s easy because, “Oh, I like this part because I can fly!”
iRunFar: It’s flat.
D’haene: Yeah, but for me, I hate the forest roads.
iRunFar: It’s just a mile of dusty downhill on a big wide track.
D’haene: Yeah. For me, it’s not the best part. Yeah, it was just two hours like that, so it was okay but you lose a lot of [?? ].
iRunFar: The middle part of the race, I think, can favor you a little bit because there are these canyons you go up and down.
D’haene: Yeah, Last Chance and Michigan Bluff… yeah, I think I don’t lose a lot of time because I take it easy, but he was 10-12-14 minutes… I say, Okay, we’ll see after that, but then I see it’s runnable, runnable, runnable to the river, it was hard for me.
iRunFar: At times, the men behind you, like Mark Hammondbehind you in third place, was pretty close, like a couple minutes behind you. Did you know that they were close?
D’haene: No, I was easy until the river because I said, If someone catches me, no problem, I’m happy, because I can run with him and I can go. Then, they gave me the time between each runner after.. there’s Green Gate and Auburn Lakes Trail. They gave me the time just here—20 minutes. I say, Okay, 20 minutes for 20k? Okay, let’s do it easy to the finish line. Not “easy,” but…
D’haene: Yes, let’s survive until the finish line.
iRunFar: After three times of trying at Western States, you get it, a podium finish here.
D’haene:Yes, it was really nice event and a really nice race. I think if you cover it since many years, it’s because you like it, but it’s a very particular race and there’s something special here. I was very happy to come back here. It’s a very logical route from Tahoe to Auburn. It’s really nice. I’m really happy for Jim, because he gave a lot of energy to prepare for this race, and I’m really happy he can deserve it. I think it’s a special race for him, and I’m happy I improved for it.
iRunFar: What will you do now? Will you prepare forUTMBafter a bit of a break? What are you plans for the year?
D’haene: No, I think my next plans will be Diagonale des Fouson Reunion Island. It’s something that I know.
iRunFar: You love that race.
D’haene: Yes, I really love it. There’s lots of elevation. I really like it. It’s more long, like 24 hours. No, I won’t be back at UTMB this year. I want to change my season. I don’t want to do the same preparation each year. I want to change it to keep the elevation really high, because in ultra trail, you can see here, the head is very, very important.
iRunFar: There are a lot of tired brains today.
iRunFar: Do you have any fun non-race projects for this year?
D’haene: I will in December because Diagonale des Fous is in October, so I have to recover a bit, so I will try to find something. I have something in my mind in Peru, so I have one month now to try to plan. We’ll see. Maybe I would like to come back to the US next year for some project.
iRunFar: Any uh…?
D’haene: Yeah, I would like to discover something in Colorado like maybe Nolan’s or Colorado Trail or something.
iRunFar: Maybe Hardrock you’ll get in?
D’haene: Yeah, but it’s really hard to get a bib, so, we’ll see.
iRunFar: Congratulations on your second-place finish at Western States.
D’haene: Thank you for your questions and your live coverage on the trails. People really like it even in France.
iRunFar: They were following?
iRunFar: Awesome. Congratulations again.
D’haene: Thank you. Bye-bye.
A video interview (with transcript) with Sébastien Spehler and Thibaut Garrivier after their first and third-place finishes, respectively, at the…