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The Real-Life Diet of Ultramarathoner François D'Haene, Who Makes Dominating 100-Mile Races Sound Low-Key  

France’s François D’haene is one of the best ultrarunners in the world. He’s won some of the hardest 100-mile foot races out there like the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix (3-time winner) and the Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado (he's the 2021 champion and course record holder). But he’s not a one-dimensional athlete, he’s stood atop over 50 podiums in both running and ski mountaineering. And in addition to being a freakishly good athlete, he’s also a wine producer in Beaujolais. 

But the father of three children and takes a refreshingly chill approach to his success: there’s no rules, no training plans, no strict diet. We chatted with D’Haene as he was gearing up for the 2022 Hardrock this weekend.

For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.

GQ: When you’re training for a big event, like the Hardrock 100, what time do you usually wake up? What’s the first thing you do?

François D'Haene: When I’m training for a big event, what time I wake up is different every day because I have to adapt every day—I also have a job and a family. I don’t have a regular plan!

Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like?

There is no typical day for me, but I always have something to do. This week I was cycling on Saturday (a casual 230-mile bike ride that took nearly 19 hours), with my children on Sunday, and wasn’t able to train on Monday because I had to deliver some wine to a few huts in the mountains by foot. Each day is totally different. 

How do you balance training, raising three kids, and your wine business? Is it difficult to do all those things well?

It’s hard to manage it and get everything done, but I don’t want to make any compromises so I try to do as good as possible. I train when I can. I try to get some long days in the mountains and keep some moments for training, some moments for the business, and some for family. I work on my calendar with my wife. Of course, I don’t have so many moments for rest but I have to make room for the things I love.

What kind of workouts are you doing each week? How much mileage or how many hours do you spend training? How much vert are you getting in? Are you self-coached? Has your training in physiotherapy helped you develop your training plan?

I don’t have any regular training and I don’t want to have any regular training or workouts. I really just try to adapt myself and be happy with that and play in the mountains when I can. Because of my schedule, I don’t have a coach. I discuss my race calendar a lot with my team manager and we try to make it as good as possible. I just have to adapt.

Do you remember when you first fell in love with trail running or racing ultramarathons? Was there a specific moment?

It’s something that built up slowly over many years. I remember when I was a kid I always loved being in the mountains. For me it was a dream to understand what happened between the earth and the top of a mountain. I started to build my relationship with the mountain and adventure and trail running. When I was finally able to go by myself with friends (at around 16 or 17 years old when we had a car) I was so happy. The adventures became longer and longer and I fell in love with trail running. That was in 2002, so 20 years ago, and I’m still passionate about it.

What’s the most fun race or run that you’ve ever done? Why?

There are many many racing projects that are very fun. I like to do official races with bib numbers but I also like to do my own projects. I think that’s really cool and interesting. Doing the 211-mile John Muir Trail with friends was a nice experience and I think it’s one of the best memories I have in my trail running experience.

You say on your website that you are careful about keeping a healthy lifestyle. Can you expand on that? What does that mean for you, and what does it look like in your daily life?

For it’s more about longevity, about practicing activities that I love and being okay socially and with my job. This is my way to stay healthy: I ski a lot during winter, I try to do cycling too and not only running. I try to figure out my body and reset my body. When I have pain, I try not to run. Of course, you have some pain every day and every time, but it’s important to make the good choice sometimes and rest a bit. My way to stay healthy is to try to live a normal and well-balanced life and to think about it in terms of longevity. If it’s too stressful for you you won’t be able to do it for long, but if it’s okay in your life you can do it as long as you want.

Can you walk us through what you typically eat for each meal?

I think I won’t tell you because you will get afraid! No, I just try to eat normal. I mainly just eat by feel. I have some children and try to educate them about eating seasonally and locally. I like food and I like fat and I like to play with my food. I try to eat what I want and just try to think about what’s good for my body and for my children and the planet.

What do you eat and drink while running and what’s your strategy with that? How often do you eat or drink while training and racing?

There’s not one right strategy for this so it’s important that people figure out what works for their body. It is crucial to test everything out before the race. For me, I never drink water. I only drink nutrition drinks and I always drink the same one. For food, every hour I eat some sort of gel.

You’re a wine lover—do you drink wine at night during training periods or no?

During training, no! I try not to drink wine or beer. I’m not just a wine lover, I drink anything. I have a normal social life and I’m so happy to share beer with my friends, or a glass of wine. If you run 10 hours with friends then you are so happy to share beer or coffee or wine with them after. Do what you want—take pleasure in that. I think my best advice is to make sure you have longevity and continue to perform.

Can you talk to us about your work as a wine producer? How did you get started doing that and what kind of wine do you make?

It was a project with my wife so we could be together more and spend more time together. We were interested to spend some time in nature. Wine is something very interesting in France and all over the world because it’s always different from area to area, with the taste, the production, and the history. It’s a very interesting thing and to be a wine producer is a very complex job. You have many things to do. Of course we like the taste of wine and the moment when you drink wine. The kind of wine that we did in Beaujolais is a Gamay wine, 100%. It’s very social and fruity so I'm sure you should enjoy it.

Why do you want to go back to the Hardrock 100? What do you like about that race and what are your goals this year?

Just because I won last year and got the opportunity to come back! No, what I like about the race is it’s an interesting race and an iconic race. It’s 160 people and a very strong and deep community. It’s a very nice place and the mountains are amazing. It’s a mix between the altitude and technical trail and easy trail, and it’s just a perfect mix of everything for me to combine strategic training. I have very nice memories from the race and I hope we can build some new good memories this year.

(08/07/2022) Views: 1,608 ⚡AMP
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