François D’haene Pre-2021 Hardrock 100 Interview

François D’haene is excited about the challenges that await him at his Hardrock 100 debut. In the following interview, François talks about what external challenges he thinks are particular to the Hardrock course, what parts of the Hardrock course will be the most challenging, what he’s learned from running the course for two weeks in 2019 as well as this past week, and what he hopes to accomplish during the race.

Be sure to read our preview to see who else is racing this year’s Hardrock 100 and follow our live Hardrock coverage starting at 6 a.m. MDT on Friday, July 16th.

François D’haene Pre-2021 Hardrock 100 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with François D’haene before the 2021 Hardrock 100. How are you, François?

François D’haene: Very well. Thanks. 

iRunFar: Yeah.

D’haene: So happy to be there after three years of wait.

iRunFar: Yeah, but you did come here in 2019 and spent a few weeks here, yeah?

D’haene: Yeah, yeah. We spend nearly two weeks, 10 days, and we made a lot of training runs there. I think for my preparation, it was very good to run with Jim [Walmsley] and Dakota [Jones] and many runners there. So yeah, for me, I think it was a nice experience, so I didn’t come that year without nothing.

iRunFar: Yeah. It’s nice because, normally if you come 10 days early, maybe you can train for two or three days and then you must rest. You actually had 10 days to play in the mountains and see the course.

D’haene: Yeah, I’m here since now more than one week. So I arrived pretty fresh. With the zest of, I really want to discover again mainly all the race. So I did it was last week and yeah, I’m so happy. I’m not very confident because you are never confident before an ultra-trail, and even more with Hardrock, but yeah, I’m really happy to be there.

iRunFar: What makes you lack even more confidence for Hardrock or what is the challenge do you think?

D’haene: I think there are many things, it’s very high mountains. So even with the storm, you can be a little bit afraid because there was already like, I don’t know, 12 rivers to cross, so your feet will for sure be wet. If it’s rain all the day and be stormy, I think it could be very complicated. And 100 miles, it’s not nothing. So you have to be careful about that. 

iRunFar: You could also have day like this when it’s pretty hot.

D’haene: Yeah. Yesterday we went to Ouray, it’s maybe one of the lowest part of the race and it was very warm. So, yes, we have to be careful about warm, altitude, it’s very technical. So, yeah, for me, it’s kind of some magical thing. So we have to compose with that and we have to adapt.

iRunFar: Yeah, and do you enjoy those additional challenges? As you said, every ultra-trail is a challenge, but do you like having the extra variables?

D’haene: Yeah. Yeah. That’s why I’m here because I think it’s one of the most challenging ultra-trail here. So yes. I’m very happy to be there and I hope it will be challenging. Yes.

iRunFar: Yeah.

D’haene: For sure it will be.

iRunFar: No question. You’ve seen all the course now or almost all of the course?

D’haene: Yes.

iRunFar: What have you enjoyed the most on the course? A section?

D’haene: Yeah, I think it’s many different things. There are some part, like when you start from Maggie Gulch to Sherman, there’s nothing, just nothing. You say, I have to run, but it’s very high [altitude] or you say it’s complicated to run for it’s hot. Then you have for sure, and these with the lake and yesterday we were there, it’s wonderful view. 360 degrees is incredible then. Yeah. It’s nice to go back to Ouray and Telluride because there is some small town and very typical. I think that will be good atmosphere there. Yeah. Then the finish is very isolated too. So no, I think it’s a very, very nice race. So I’d like to be with good feelings to take a lot of pleasure in that race.

iRunFar: Yeah. Obviously, as you said, there’s challenges all around the course. What do you think about the, any terrain you think will be most challenging? I know you mentioned being at 3,700 meters in Pole Creek, but there’s also huge climbs at the finish. Is there anything you’d respect the most? 

D’haene: Yeah. I think I’m not so bad when it’s boring, but I think there’s two paths afraid a bit. I’m a bit afraid of both. It’s from Grouse Gulch to Engineer.

iRunFar: Engineer, yeah.

D’haene: I think it’s a long forest road, it’s very hard. Then from Ouray to Governor Basin.

iRunFar: You’re afraid of that slight, that small uphill running.

D’haene: I think you want to run, but you must not run. So you don’t know to do, maybe you have…

iRunFar: A little bit of both, running and walking.

D’haene: Yeah.

iRunFar: It’s a mental challenge because at Grouse Gulch you’re at 70 kilometers.

D’haene: It’s nothing.

iRunFar: But it is something. Yeah.

D’haene: Yeah. I’m a bit of afraid of that, and then there’s the pacer, so maybe you can enjoy the company and the feelings and everything, and maybe you can go too fast. So yes, I am a bit afraid about that. Then, yeah, I am very happy about the technical places, like Kroger’s Canteen or something like that it’s most of the time useful and I’m very happy about that, liking this. I know just I have to walk and it’s what I like in the mountain. It’s my daily life. It’s more what I’m used to, to do.

iRunFar: Yeah. It’s been a strange year and a half, almost two years, with COVID-19 and much less racing. I know you ran Cabo Verde [the 112k Ultra Cabo Verde Trail], but how has your training been? How do you think your fitness is?

D’haene: I think in my mind, I am really focused on that set challenge with Hardrock and UTMB because it’s two very big races. It’s two different race, but it’s two ultra-trail and it’s only six weeks between. So I think in my mind, since two years I’m focused on that, just to arrive fresh at the first one to be able to do the second one. So I think, yes, I have a very good winter on skimo [ski mountainteering]. I have a very good spring. I have some kind of problem with some kind of virus or something like that, but nothing very sad. I have some bad experience in Cabo Verde or something like that.

iRunFar: From what? Sorry.

D’haene: It was some bad experience. Like I was, I feel very weak or yeah, not very good feelings, but I think my training was okay. I think I have no injury.

iRunFar: Strong?

D’haene: Fresh and yeah, I feel strong, but I feel afraid before that race.

iRunFar: Yeah, you’re here. What do you hope to get out of the race? I mean, do you have any goals?

D’haene: Yeah, I think you want to play because you that you are well trained for the race. You want to play, you want to start and you want to play with your pacer and you want to play with the time and with everything, but it’s a race, my first time here. There’s a lot of altitude, and I really want to finish that race. So I have to be a bit, take it easy and do it and finish it and then we will see another year or something like that.

iRunFar: Do you know in your mind what the record in this direction?

D’haene: I know.

iRunFar: You do know. 

D’haene: I try to don’t think about that because it’s very easy to start fast and try to make something, but then to explode or something like that. I never did race in such high altitude. I was in China, but just for 50k. So yeah, I think I have to be…

iRunFar: Have you heard that as you race a long race at altitude, it kind of gets harder and harder? It’s cumulative.

D’haene: Yeah. YEven when I did last week, like 50k here. Yeah, I feel it because it’s hard to drink, it’s hard to eat. It’s hard to breathe. I think 24 hours in altitude is not nothing. Even 24 hours in normal altitude is not nothing. So, yeah. I think you really have to take it easy and then we’ll see.

iRunFar: Was that a good reminder?

D’haene: Yeah, yeah. 

iRunFar: Maybe you can think of that going up Engineer. 

D’haene: Yeah, because if you are only asked to do 20k, okay, I feel good. Okay, I do it, okay, but no, no, no. So that’s why, yeah, I tried to make like eight hours or seven hours to train just to say, okay, remember what is the pace at the end of the day. Remember that you have to do 24 hours.

iRunFar: Yeah. Not too hard for seven or eight hours? A little bit?

D’haene: It’s always hard, but no, I was up here, but my training are, yeah.

iRunFar: Now you are resting.

D’haene: Yeah, yeah.

iRunFar: It’s the Sunday before the race.

D’haene: I have to, maybe tomorrow we do less dangerous routine, but just like 1,000 meters elevation gain.

iRunFar: Maybe two hours or less?

D’haene: Yeah. Now, yes, I have to rest. Yesterday I did five hours. 

iRunFar: Yeah.

D’haene: Easy pace. So, yes, I’m…

iRunFar: You did five hours yesterday, but easy.

D’haene: Yeah. Just the descent into Ouray. 

iRunFar: Okay. So down, okay.

 D’haene: Yeah, yeah. We go in these, in Ouray. Yeah. For me, it was important to go again to Handies Peak, because I was there like eight days ago and I can see that’s in eight days your acclimatization is not bad because one day you feel okay, two day, okay, feel the energy. I feel worse and worse, what’s happened? Then it’s getting better.

iRunFar: Nice. Well, it’s great to see your excitement for this race and I look forward to seeing how you do. Good luck.

D’haene: Thank you very much.