I’m A Competitor: Executive Chef Fabrice Hardel

Fabrice Hardel runs about 100 miles a week on top of being an executive chef in San Diego. Photo: Scott Draper | Competitor

He started running to kick a smoking habit, and his race resume is now an impressive one.

Fabrice Hardel, the executive chef at The Westgate Hotel in San Diego, bought a pair of running shoes on a whim in 2007 to “see where I could go” and to kick his smoking habit. Hardel finished the 2007 Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon (his first) in 2:53. The transplanted Frenchman, 40, has now run five marathons and more than 30 ultra-distance races—including the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon through Death Valley—and hopes to eventually break 2:30 in the marathon.

Do you have a preference of running on roads or trails?

I’ve been focusing on trail races because to me the scene is smaller and friendlier than big marathons. In a trail race, it’s you against nature and the trail. You aren’t running so much against the other runners; you can run your own race.

How do you eat?

I eat good meals with vegetables, starch, protein and no processed food. For running, I make my own gels. I use water, sugar, pure fruit juices—either pineapple or orange—and maltodextrin. I like being able to control the mix. For 50-mile runs, I use more sugar and less maltodextrin. For 100-mile runs, I use less sugar and more maltodextrin. I also take salt tablets for electrolytes.

What does a typical training week look like?

I usually run 90 to 105 miles a week. I need to run before work and prefer to run seven days a week. Monday is my long run day. Tuesday and Thursday are cross-country days with a mix of flat terrain and hill repeats. Wednesday and Friday are my trail running days (I have a 13-mile route with 3,000 feet of elevation gain that I like to do). Saturday is a 10-mile tempo run, and my goal is to finish in less than 56 minutes. On Sunday I do a 10- to 13-mile easy recovery run. I choose one or two big focus races a year, the rest are to stay in shape.

Many ultra-distance races allow pacers, yet you don’t run with them. Why?

I believe a race should be run the “old-fashioned” way—on your own. I run for myself, for the feeling I get when I’ve been running for 14 hours—it’s dark, I’m by myself and I just have the beam of my headlamp. It’s a lot of training and expense to ask someone to be a pacer. If I fail, it would make me wonder even more if it was worth it. I do have a race support crew; my wife is part of it. I can go about 65 miles with no crew, but after that, I like some support.

Pre-race meal?

It’s definitely pasta carbonara. I don’t want any acid and only very little meat.

Favorite gear?

That would be my GPS. I have a Garmin Fenix, and it’s one of the greatest tools for me.

Favorite race distance?

100 miles is my favorite distance. I feel like I complete so much more. My only DNF [did not finish] was at my first 100.

Post-race recovery?

After a long race, I take a few days off and run a little less. I build back up slowly, but my body has gotten used to the abuse.

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