François D'Haene sets his sights on the John Muir Trail
Just one month after his UTMB-winning heroics, François D'Haene has arrived in California to attempt a FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the John Muir Trail. The iconic trail – from Mount Whitney's 4400 meter summit to the Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley – traverses 356km of High Sierra wilderness with over 14000 meters of elevation gain. Francois will be looking to best the current FKT of 3 days, 7 hours and 36 minutes set by US athlete Leon Pantilat in 2014. For the Frenchman it's a welcome opportunity for some adventure after an amazing season of racing.
‘'I knew that I would long for escapism, liberty, new sensations and something different from a trail where you share a bib with a lot of people,'’ he says after a year that has seen him win a host of top races including Madeira Island Ultra, Maxi Race and , of course, UTMB. '‘This will also be an opportunity to live an adventure with my close friends, who will experience this adventure with me – for safety reasons but also to share strong emotions. I feel the need to push my limits or find new ones. It's an opportunity to test myself for future projects –see how my body will react on a + 300km and 80 hours effort.’'
This year's UTMB assembled what is widely considered to be the deepest field ever for an ultra race – a claim which also attracted intense attention from global media. Motivation in such a situation is not a problem for D'Haene or any of the other elites. The John Muir Trail, however, will be a very different kind of challenge but one the winemaker relishes. '‘Discovering my needs in sleep, food supply and other issues as they come, will be fun and motivates me. I will have to adapt myself to the situation, listen to my body and my friends who can advise me from time to time as I’m not sure that during 80 hours I will be lucid all the time!’'
Due to the fact that John Muir Trail crosses no less than 3 National Parks, there are strict regulations in place meaning D'Haene and his team had to apply for permits more than six months ago. As a result, waiting for a favorable weather window for the attempt is out of the question. '‘Departure will have to be on October 14th whatever the weather conditions will be. It is part of the game and I really intend to respect the local rules.’'
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