Frenchman Francois Dien is one of the best ultrarunners in the world. He has won some of the toughest 100-mile foot races, such as the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix (a three-time winner) and the Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado (he is the 2021 champion and record holder). But he is not a one-dimensional athlete, he climbed to the top of more than 50 podiums in both running and ski mountaineering. And besides being an extremely good athlete, he is also a wine producer in Beaujolais.
But the father of three children is very calm about his success: there are no rules, no training plans, no strict diet. We spoke to D’Henet as he prepares for Hardrock 2022 this weekend.
GQ: When you’re training for a big event like the Hardrock 100, what time do you usually wake up? What do you do first?
François D’Aene: When I’m preparing for a big event, the time I wake up is different every day because I have to adapt every day – I also have work and family. I don’t have a regular plan!
Can you tell us what a typical day looks like?
There is no typical day for me, but there is always something to do. This week I cycled on Saturday (a typical 230 mile bike ride that took almost 19 hours) with my kids on Sunday and couldn’t train on Monday because I had to deliver some wine to some huts in the mountains on foot Every day is completely different.
How do you balance teaching, raising three children and your wine business? Is it hard to do all these things well?
It’s hard to manage it and do everything, but I don’t want to compromise, so I try to do the best I can. I train when I can. I try to spend some long days in the mountains and keep time for training, time for business and time for family. I am working on my calendar with my wife. Of course, I don’t have many moments to relax, but I have to make room for what I love.
What kind of workouts do you do every week? How much mileage or how many hours do you spend training? How many verts do you get? Are you self-employed? Did your physical therapy training help you develop your study plan?
I don’t have regular training and I don’t want to have regular training. I’m really just trying to fit in and be happy with it and play in the mountains when I can. I don’t have a trainer because of my schedule. 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 has built up slowly over the years. I remember, as a child, I always liked to visit the mountains. It was a dream for me to understand what happened between the ground and the mountain top. I began to build a relationship with mountains, adventure running, and trail running. When I was finally able to go on my own with my friends (around 16-17 when we had a car), I was very happy. The adventures got longer and longer and I fell in love with trail running. That was in 2002, so 20 years ago, and I’m still in awe of it.