While Martina Valmassoi has raced for Italy at many ski mountaineering world championships, she’ll be making her Italian team running debut at the 2023 Trail World Championships 80k in Austria this week. In the following interview, our first with her, Martina talks about her history with sports, why she’s improved so much the past two years, how her love for the outdoors influences her training and racing, and what she likes about this year’s world championships course.
Martina Valmassoi Pre-2023 Trail World Championships 80k Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Martina Valmassoi before the 2023 Trail World Championships. How are you?
Martina Valmassoi: I’m good. I’m feeling really excited to be here. First time for me on the national team. And yeah, the course is exciting. I am really looking forward to starting on Friday.
iRunFar: Yeah. You say the first time on the national team, [you mean] the first time on the trail running national team, correct? Because you, back in your ski mountaineering…
Valmassoi: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. So I’ve been in the national team. And actually, last year, I was supposed to go to Thailand but then I had an injury right before the World Championships. But yeah, I’ve been in the ski mountaineering national team for like ten years. So yeah, just different kinds of teams, which is cool.
iRunFar: Yeah. Well, one thing since we’ve known you for a long time but haven’t interviewed you — what is your background with sports and with running?
Valmassoi: I grew up in the mountains because I live in the Dolomites. I was born and raised there. And so, when I was a child, I grew up with Nordic skiing, and of course, running and hiking in summer. And then in the most recent years, the Nordic skiing journeyed into ski mountaineering. And then with that, of course, you have to train in summer and so I’ve been hiking, running, riding my bike and in the last six or seven years I’ve been working a lot in this world of trail running. But you know, I’ve always had to be fit somehow to follow the runners I was taking pictures of. And so yeah, racing not much, but tried to do a few races a year as best as I could. And in the past few years it became more of a thing. I had more time to actually train for the races I wanted to do and so it got better, let’s say.
iRunFar: I want to explore there. I wanted to ask you, so last year, you won Lavaredo and you won TDS. This year, you won Transvulcania. Like you did well before and you sort of mostly focused on shorter trial races and shorter ultras. What’s changed over the last two years?
Valmassoi: I think maybe the COVID-19 years were not so bad for me after all because I was able to settle a bit at home. And so not traveling much and just being able to actually build my fitness back and rebuild the base, and not just going back and forth from one race to another one. It gave me like, a really good base fitness endurance, let’s say. And then yeah, I’ve been traveling a little less and so I could choose better the races that I wanted to do. And so I was not just like, okay, I’m traveling here and there. So maybe in between, I did a race. And yeah, last year was really like the first year I was actually focusing on one race. Because as I discovered, I like more — and I perform better on — longer distances. I still like to do adventures. So, I rode my bike at the Giro [D’Italia] and then after I turned that fitness into trail running shape, and so then I did really well at TDS and I’m happy about that.
iRunFar: Nice. So it maybe means like three changes. The COVID-19 years allowed you not to travel so much and rebuild your base. You have traveled less, intentionally for work, because people don’t realize how challenging it is to mix in training and going to a lot of races to work.
Valmassoi: Yeah, and it’s difficult. Yeah, I mean, it’s like, it’s different because you’re still of course out in the trails, but you can’t do what you have to do or like what you would like to do. You still have to adapt your training and your schedule to other people. And of course, you have to work so that’s the first thing you have to do. And then it’s always like, what the runners are experiencing with building up and tapering, with working at races and trying to prepare for races. It’s kind of a mix of like trying not to lose fitness. And tapering and recovering from work more than from training. It’s possible. It’s just that it doesn’t work perfectly.
iRunFar: And on the longer races side of thing, is it that you’re enjoying it more, or you’re also better at it, or is it?
Valmassoi: I think I really, I am someone that loves to be outdoors and loves to be in the mountains. I like to ride my bike long and stay in the mountains long, and so ultras are allowing me to do so. And so, I am like, Okay, I’d rather do less races. And in order to be outside as much as I can, I know that it’s the best fit for me.
iRunFar: Not just in races, but the training is not sharp and short.
Valmassoi: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes, yes, it can be. But it’s just like, for me it’s way more important to enjoy most of the time I have. To be outside and then a race is like the cherry on the cake. Like it doesn’t have to, I don’t like to put so much pressure on one race. I mean, it’s like okay, I’m racing, I have to be fully there on race day. And it means that if I am struggling, maybe in the middle of a race, but I still like look at how my journey has been to get to that race and I did what I wanted to do and it was fun. Hard, of course, but like if I follow what I was planning on doing, then it’s like okay. I put my head down and I work harder and eventually it will get better. And if not, it won’t, but it’s okay. It’s just one day. And then all the other days there’s like, there’s a different story. And it’s great. I’m feeling really grateful and fortunate to be able to live this kind of life.
iRunFar: That’s great. For here, at Innsbruck-Stubai, you don’t live so far away. How close are you by car?
Valmassoi: Yeah, for me is like three hours by car so it’s pretty close. And I really love the course because it feels like home. It’s really similar to where I used to train and the mountains are similar. There’s a lot of climbing, which is basically what I have at home. There’s not much flat. [laughs] So for me it’s good. It’s like hiking up with poles and then the steep downhills, roots. It’s cool.
iRunFar: You like it?
Valmassoi: [laughs] I like it! Like, you know, I can’t complain about this world championships because I mean, they’re hard but it’s what I like to do.
iRunFar: Specific kind of terrain, mountains. Yeah. This is in your wheelhouse.
Valmassoi: Yes, yes.
iRunFar: Will you have friends and family come out as well?
Valmassoi: Yeah! Well, some friends for sure. My Mom and my Dad, as always, they will be somewhere in the mountains. It’s always a surprise.
Valmassoi: Like I tell my Mom where to go but then eventually she’s somewhere else. Normally it’s my Mom higher in the mountains and my Dad lower down because he has sore knees. But they are, they’re going to be out there, yes.
iRunFar: That’s fun. I think it’s personally cool about you know, the world championships are in Austria, but you’re from Italy and you’re close. So is Andreas Reiterer.
iRunFar: I’ll probably talk to the Hannes Namberger from Germany and some of the French team isn’t even that far.
Valmassoi: Yeah. I mean, it’s like lots of trail runners are coming from Europe and like some of the strongest ones, I’d say. And for us it’s cool because like last year, I think for Thailand, it was an exotic experience for everyone because we are not so used to have trail runners from Thailand. And but like here, yeah, it’s the middle of Europe. Personally, it’s fun because I’ve never raced here or in Austria or Germany. So it’s also fun to hear a different language, you know, cheering you on. And yeah, as I said, it’s close, but still, it’s the first time I’ve been here in summer.
Valmassoi: So yeah, because, you know, it’s not too far, but you maybe go somewhere else or you stay closer to home. So it’s definitely a cool town and I’m really glad we got to experience some trails and I probably will come back here.
iRunFar: Awesome. Well enjoy the weekend. Have a good race.
Valmassoi: Yes. Thank you. Thanks a lot.