Last year’s Hardrock 100 champion, François D’Haene, ran nearly as fast in finishing second this year. In the following interview, François talks about how he had intestinal issues for most of the race, how he mentally and tactically dealt with that issue, where he and Kilian Jornet started racing for the win, and how it feels to be able to push the effort so late in a long ultra.
To see how the whole race unfolded, check out our 2022 Hardrock 100 results article.
François D’Haene Post-2022 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar, here with François D’Haene after his second-place finish at the 2022 Hardrock 100. How are you?
François D’Haene: Not that bad.
D’Haene: No, no. It was a very long day but I’m happy to do it again, do it on one way and next year in the other way.
iRunFar: As they say, now you are a true Hardrocker.
D’Haene: Yeah, it was a long day. I felt not so good, at Telluride I had some stomach problem and issues and had to stop many, many times. It was crampy in all the descent and flat parts so I had to take my time after Ouray. And I was a bit disappointed but you know, ultra, it’s not always easy.
D’Haene: So, you have to adapt and I really wanted to see the finish line so I actually take my time and come back slowly and steady. It was a bit strange because my legs felt so good and I was able to catch them again. In each descent and each time I have to stop, for me it was a bit of tiredness. Finally, I think the time was not so bad at the finish line. I have to enjoy that day with Kilian [Jornet] and Dakota [Jones]. It was very nice to run with them. Yeah, you always expect some better shape and something like that. But I was happy to be able to adapt myself and to finish it. It was a very nice part here was that this community and this place is such a special place. I was so happy and lucky to be there so, I’m so, I’m so sad it’s already finished.
iRunFar: From looking on the outside, it didn’t look like you had a challenging day. Just your times, you were consistent, at least at the checkpoints, almost always with Kilian. Or Kilian and Dakota. How did you work through the mental challenge of not feeling well? For so long.
D’Haene: It was hard at the beginning because it was really challenging, you know the descent from Kroger’s to Ouray. Because when you have cramping, you know the guys were fast on that pass and I know that if I let them drop me, after it will be a long day for me alone. So I have to stay with them but it was really hard mentally. It was, “Okay you have to go with them to Ouray and then you have to take your time.” And mentally it was, at the beginning it was hurting a lot because I say, “Okay, maybe you say bye-bye to the win and to the race.” But you have to take care of you, it was already 90k to go, so it’s not nothing at all.
iRunFar: Did your stomach ever recover?
D’Haene: Not that good. But it was strange, I have some, diarrhea issue.
iRunFar: Diarrhea, yeah, yeah.
D’Haene: So I have to stop many times. But anyway, cramp in the descent. But it was possible for me to eat and drink and continue.
iRunFar: So not nausea?
D’Haene: Not nausea. I think it was one good point.
D’Haene: Yeah, I have to say, mentally it was hard for being three hours to say, I’m so sad I cannot continue with them but anyway, I keep moving and not that bad. So I will do that and I’m here for that. So try to enjoy it but it takes two to three hours to say, okay it was not the day that you expected but finally you are here and so you have to do that. I think this is really ultra [running], to adapt yourself and be able to finish and to change your mind and your focus during the race. It’s not easy but you have to do that, otherwise you never finish an ultra-race, so I think it’s very important. And this year was like that and it was a good year.
iRunFar: It was a good year. Before the race you talked a little bit about how often in long ultras you’ll be running with the top runners, maybe someone will start to fall off and you talk. It didn’t seem that way this year. Who made a move and when? When did it become, running strong together to actually fighting for the win?
D’Haene: Yeah, Dakota had a very, very good race. After Ouray, maybe a bit too good race after Ouray, he was too much optimist and then it was hard for him. He changed his mind, he can focus again on that race and he have a good third place I think. I don’t know if you already made an interview with him but I’m sure he was happy.
iRunFar: He was very happy. The result he wanted.
D’Haene: And I think it’s true. But with Kilian, I think he had not the best feeling of his life during that race too. And so we have to do it together and I have a pacer after Sherman, Ricky Gates. He paced Kilian earlier, so we made a good night altogether at three, yeah, we were able to discuss and have a good pace and keep moving. And then we have to make the race so yeah, it was a bit, Kilian in the descent on Cunningham tried to drop us. And so, I said, “Maybe I have to try to do something,” but it was a bit hard for me with my stomach and so on the descent I was able to catch him. I was thinking, my muscle looks not so bad even it’s just maybe less than him, so I have to try something else and then in those ascents, he took his pacer at Cunningham and she was very strong and they were able to move like 30, 45 seconds in front of me, during all the ascent.
iRunFar: Which is a long time. Eight hundred, 900 meters of vertical.
D’Haene: Yeah, after 20 hours.
iRunFar: And only 40 seconds, that’s not much.
D’Haene: And we push and each time we push we have a very good race here. And then at the top they were all just like together and they go so fast in to the downhill, I tried to do my best but, yes they were together and I was not able to follow. I take like two, three minutes. I said “Okay, I have to finish and enjoy the finish line.” I know, you know with Kilian on the rocky trail in the descent, it’s Kilian. I think I was not so far and not so bad but if I have to beat him, it’s not in the last one, it would be earlier and earlier I can’t.
iRunFar: And you tried on the climb. If you were to beat him it would’ve been then.
D’Haene: Yeah, yeah but I was so happy to run with him, I think he had a good day with me. We pushed it together, we enjoy to be together because since 2017 we were not able to race each other. So even not just race each other, sharing together and do it well together. Because I think he was happy with his time. So, I think we had a good year together, it was very nice to share it with him. He’s a nice guy and I was so happy to have that race with him and Dakota. I’m so happy for them and for their results.
iRunFar: Kilian was saying how much he enjoyed the fact that, you’re working hard the first 90 miles, yes, you’re not jogging. But that you are both able to then push. Not that you are fighting each other but you both had that ability.
D’Haene: Yeah, it’s so nice when you move well in the mountains, you are able to discuss and play and you know you are doing well. It’s such a pleasure and such a good moment and during like, I think, yes, for me like 18 hours, I have this feeling that, okay, he’s here, I can catch him, two minutes he’s not so … It’s very interesting.
iRunFar: You very objectively had a good day. You broke the old clockwise course record by quite a lot. How does that feel in comparison to setting the course record last year in the different direction? Was there a better performance one day or the other?
D’Haene: Yeah, I think last year was a very good feeling. And I think in that direction we can do a bit better and faster. But it’s not maybe the goal. The time is interesting, but the condition can change everything.
D’Haene: Yes. Yesterday we were very lucky about the rain and everything, we had just a big storm but short storm. So it was, I think good condition, a bit wet.
iRunFar: Not too hot?
D’Haene: Not too hot. In Ouray a little bit but it was nice. So yeah, I think the time was good but I’m sure in that way you can do a better time. But I’m, it’s okay but I’m not sure it’s the purpose of this community and that race.
iRunFar: No, but you can still …
D’Haene: You can always, always increase your time and do it better. But I was really happy to do even … Last year I was not thinking less than 24 hours. It’s hard and I did it twice and back-to-back, so I’m so happy.
iRunFar: You said we can run faster in the other direction so does that mean you’ll maybe put your name in the lottery again?
D’Haene: Yeah, for sure I would like to do it again one year but maybe I need time to recover. Maybe it could be interesting that some other people can do it. So maybe next year I won’t apply, I cannot apply every year but yeah, of course I would like to come back one year. And maybe with Jim [Walmsley]. If he would be able to win UTMB this year then we can focus on some other stuff. It would be interesting to come back here with him because even with him and Dakota last year, it was just such good memories to have them on board and so it’s good.
iRunFar: Cool. Is this the end of your season or will you race again? Race or have an adventure?
D’Haene: It’s not the end of the season, we are just in July. Yes, but it was a big goal of my season of course. I would be there in Reunion Island in October and before I have some race in France with the brother of my wife, L’Échappée Belle, it’s a very technical one.
iRunFar: Oh yes.
D’Haene: And we do it twice, so to be for us, a good challenge to do it together. Like duo, I don’t know if it’s good English.
iRunFar: Partners, yeah, yes.
D’Haene: And then we organize our first event, with my wife.
iRunFar: I was going to ask you about that, you’re going to be a race director? “Race?”
D’Haene: It’s a race but it’s not a race.
iRunFar: It’s an event.
D’Haene: It’s more an event, it’s more about experiencing ultra-trail and to give my experience and chat with people. So it will be only 25 teams of three people. Even if it’s only 25 teams of three people, it’s already big stuff for me. It’s the first edition so we will try to make a good one and a nice one. So it will be 9, 10, 11 September this year. It’s not so far.
iRunFar: Yeah, and it’s multiple days, it’s complicated in that there’s, it’s not just a race, it’s an event with other aspects.
D’Haene: We made many activities. I tried to make local food and everything and people could enjoy it. I hope so. I will give you more details.
iRunFar: I can’t wait to hear more about it, thank you. Congratulations.
D’Haene: Thanks for being here.