As the 2017 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail champion and course-record holder, François D’haene is back to race MIUT again in 2019. In this interview, François talks about why he’s decided to return to Madeira Island and the MIUT, why he thinks not running and only skiing in winter is important for him, and his quick–and sometimes uncomfortable–conversion to trail running in just the last month.
François D’haene Pre-2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar and I’m with François D’haene. It’s a couple of days before the 2019 Madeira Island Ultra-Trail. Good morning, François.
François D’haene: Good morning.
iRunFar: How are you doing? This is your second time back to race on Madeira Island.
D’haene: Yes, the first time–in 2017 –was a very good experience for me. I made good memories. Now I’m trying to come back, to start my season here. Last time, I told my family, “It’s a very nice island. I would like you to come next time.” Now we are all together here. It’s a little bit different for me [in terms of] organization, but it’s nice to have them with me.
iRunFar: I wondered a little bit about why you came back. When you came in 2017, you came solo, without your family?
D’haene: I was alone, yes. It was a very hard race with many, many good runners. I was really happy with my race result, about my finishing time, about everything, I think. Now I’ll see if I’m not too old to do it again.
iRunFar: [Laughs] I don’t think you’re too old.
D’haene: We’ll see.
iRunFar: So you’ve been on Madeira Island for a couple of days having vacation with your family?
D’haene: Yes, we arrived not too long ago because before the race, it’s a little bit stressful. I’d like to be with them for a little bit after the race. After the race, we will have three or four days together to visit the other parts of the island.
iRunFar: You’ll go see things by driving, as opposed to on foot.
D’haene: Yeah, yeah. But also, my kids are four and five years old, so they really like to run and to walk. So, it’s very good.
iRunFar: I saw pictures, either on your Instagram or Strava where you were out on the trails running with your kids.
D’haene: Yeah, I know why, but now they always want to race, race, race. They make up challenges: “We can make a race from here to here!” It’s nice. They don’t like to lose, but it’s nice to race with them.
iRunFar: Okay, so do you let them win?
D’haene: Yeah [laughs]. For my daughter, she’s five now so it’s okay. But my son, if he doesn’t win, it’s horrible. “Stay behind me, daddy.” Okay, okay.
iRunFar: That’s amazing [laughs]. So, looking at your Strava, you have been skiing up until one month ago. About a month ago is when you started putting on your running shoes again?
D’haene: Yeah, for me it’s very important to have a different training style during winter because I really like to arrive fresh in spring for running season. This year will be a long running season because normally I like to into December to the Ultra-Trail Cape Town, so I don’t want to start running too early. So, yeah, I have a running camp with Salomon each year and this year it was in Azores, Portugal, so it was really nice. But it was at the beginning of April. So from January to April, I ran like 100k the whole time, like 25k per month. But I ski a lot. After we ran like 200k in one week, maybe more. It was tough for my legs but I know my heart, my body, everything feels very good after ski season, so it’s just about the legs. So, yes, for one month I’ve tried to run more and more and more. I hope it will be enough preparation for this race.
iRunFar: As I look at your Strava, I see that you skied all winter and it looks like you had a week before your trail running camp that was maybe 50k of running and some skiing. Then you did 200k with I don’t know how much climbing – a ridiculous amount of climb. To me, you seem almost immortal that you can pull off that week and not have something that hurts in your foot or your leg. How do you feel good, just jumping right into the deep end?
D’haene: Mentally, I was really fresh about running. I was happy to run because I was in the Azores with other people. I tried to be really careful about my feet and everything. Regarding the distance covered, in the first part of the week, I didn’t run too fast, I went really slowly. When it’s not technical, I go fast because I tried to destroy my muscles a little bit to learn to descend again because it’s incredible how you can lose everything about running in three months. When you start you first 500m of descent, the day after you can’t walk. I start from nothing. But two days later, it’s finally like my muscles remember, even if it’s from three months ago. It’s coming along better and better.
For sure, it’s the two or three first weeks that are very hard. But after two or three months, it’s good for the head and the body. I’m sure if I compare with other athletes, when they arrive in June, they’ve been training for six months. I’m sure it’s long for them. For me, in June, it’s just the beginning because I just started running three weeks ago. For ten years, I’ve been doing exactly this same thing. I know it will be hard. I know that maybe I won’t be prepared enough for this race, but I’ll be fresh. So, we’ll see.
iRunFar: This year, here on Madeira Island, I think the men’s race is little bit like 2017. There’s great depth to the competition this year. Some guys have been also been skiing through the winter and are likewise coming with fresh legs. But, on the other hand, there’s also some guys who have been running. What are your thoughts about what the competition will look like?
D’haene: It will be very nice. One thing that’s a little bit outside, but there’s some different races around the same time. Two weeks ago in Patagonia there was a race. In exactly the same week you have Ultra-Trail Mt. Fuji, so the field is diluted a little bit.
iRunFar: That’s true.
D’haene: But, I think here in Madeira, the organization works very well. They make very good things for the runners and they invite many, many good runners. Here in Madeira, you have a big start list, so I’m happy about that.
iRunFar: Well, I think the bus arrival [a bus just parked in the background] is our indication to end the interview.
D’haene: Yes, it’s all the main runners for the race.
iRunFar: [Laughs] Well, good luck to you this weekend. We look forward to chasing you around the trails of Madeira.
D’haene: Thank you very much.