In this interview, she talks about a challenging start to her taper, where she had suffered the ill-effects of training in the heat. She discussed how, or if, running TDS has prepared her for UTMB, and what she thinks her best possible day at UTMB might look like.
Martina Valmassoi Pre-2023 UTMB Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar. I’m with Martina Valmassoi. It’s a couple of days before the 2023 UTMB. Hi, Martina. How are you doing?
Martina Valmassoi: Hi, Meghan. It’s nice to be here again. Yeah, I’m feeling better. I’m really excited to race this race. My first 100 miler, and yeah, I’ve been feeling a little bit, not bad but just like, weird the past week. But probably it’s just the tapering hitting hard or the combination of tapering and heat. But I’m really positive and honestly really excited to start and see how this adventure will take me.
iRunFar: Yeah, you’ve been here in Chamonix for a while training and there was a heatwave prior to this storm that’s moved in that we’re all wearing jackets for today. So it was difficult the last couple of weeks.
Valmassoi: Yeah, I was here the beginning of August to do the Tour du Mont Blanc, the training camp with the Salomon team. And then I stayed another week and then moved to work in Sierre-Zinal. And after that I stayed one week in Italy because we are just more comfortable in my country, even though I was not at home, but in Val d’Aosta and Val Formazza. And it was beautiful, but just so hot all of a sudden.
Valmassoi: It was a really nice temperature when we were training. And so that was good, at least to have the big block with normal temperatures. And then last week, really humid. Really hot. So pretty difficult to recover well, especially as I was staying in my van. But yeah, now we got snow lower than 2,000 meters and I felt great.
Valmassoi: The past two days it was raining. It was miserable, and I was like, breathing again. It was great.
iRunFar: So Martina is requesting a cold weekend for the race.
Valmassoi: Sorry. Yeah. And I’m really sorry for who’s out there now for PTL or the people running TDS tonight, even though I think it might not be raining as much tomorrow. But yes, for UTMB having a bit lower temperatures. Hopefully not raining. I cross the fingers for it. [crosses fingers]
iRunFar: It’s funny when I think of you as a racer, I don’t necessarily think of super long races, but you were here at the festival last year. You’re the winner of the TDS, which is as close to 100 miles as you can be. So are you a 100-mile racer? Because now we’re here at UTMB.
Valmassoi: Yeah, well, I don’t know. Honestly, I still feel like I’m really excited and scared, like the same feeling as last year. Because I don’t feel like I have the experience, even though last year I raced really well at TDS, but also it’s a different course. There’s different dynamics in the race. I lead from start to finish, and I was able to just set my pace and continue during the day. And yeah, UTMB there’s lots going on that well, you can’t control, of course, but it makes it more difficult. I think I’m good at pacing myself, but you never know in this kind of situation because you think okay, I’m going to pace myself, but then if there’s 30 women that are passing you, and you’re like Uh, okay, so maybe…
iRunFar: Am I not pacing myself?
Valmassoi: Am I pacing myself too much? Am I like, going too slow?
iRunFar: [laughs] Yeah.
Valmassoi: Because this is the scenario I’m imagining right now, because on my ideal race I start slow, and then I catch up.
iRunFar: You’re the one who’s passing.
Valmassoi: Yeah, but later on. But here, really, if you start too slow you can be 50th super easy. And so yeah, it will be interesting to see how I will manage the whole, the surroundings I would say more than my performance.
iRunFar: It’s really interesting to hear you reflect on TDS. You know, it was sort of a race within yourself, but long. Like, you experienced basically all the variables you’ll meet in this race, but it’s interesting to hear you reflect that now you have to take all that and apply it to the dynamic of a bunch of other women around you.
Valmassoi: Yeah, I still want to try to really focus on my strategy, even if I don’t really have one. But.
iRunFar: My non-strategy strategy.
Valmassoi: My non-strategy strategy, but trying to not get caught into the vibe of going hard at the beginning. But yes, you don’t know. Like what Katie [Schide] said last year, that of course she knew that she didn’t have to start as fast, but then at that moment, it felt just right. And so yeah, why not also following the feelings. But yeah, I don’t know. Honestly, I’m curious, and I just wish to have a good day. Even though, you know, even on the best day at an ultra like that, at some point the struggle is real, even on the best day. [laughs] I think I’ve prepared well, so on paper, I think I can do a good race. So, I really look forward to see if I’m able to play all my cards at the right moment.
iRunFar: What does it look like? Like, it’s a difficult thing to try to be competitive but race within yourself for 100 miles. What does Martina’s own best day look like? When you’re visualizing that, what does that look like?
Valmassoi: So, yeah, I don’t know. Here, I would see myself not in front at the start. First, because I normally try not to push too much at the beginning, but also how the race itself is. Like, it’s quite fast and runnable until Les Contamines. And then there’s all the big climbs and the more technical climbs, which is where I think I’m better. So, like, at the [Trail] World Championship [80k] I had to change strategy because all the mountains, the big mountains, were at the beginning, and so I went out hard.
Valmassoi: Even though it was comfortable. So not like, too hard.
iRunFar: You had to play to your strengths then.
Valmassoi: Yeah, yeah. So, and here I think it’s like, my strengths are following the course.
iRunFar: That’s interesting.
Valmassoi: So hopefully, yeah, I will be able to stick to my plan. The one thing I’m most afraid of is nutrition, these kind of things. Because yeah, I don’t have things dialed. [laughs] I don’t know. I’m like, more or less I know I have to eat something every hour. And I will prepare some polenta, some rice to eat at the aid station where I have assistance, but I don’t know.
iRunFar: I feel like you’re either like, really, really methodical about one’s nutrition, or it’s more casual like you.
Valmassoi: Yeah, so I know that I don’t have to eat certain things, and I don’t have to eat certain gels. But also, depending on the day, something that I used to eat and have no problems sometimes it sits weird on the stomach. And so it’s really hard to predict. But yeah, I will try to not rush out of aid stations. If it’s cold, to dress up, because I think these things are important. And yeah, and just always remember that it’s a really long race, so you can really start to actually race really far into the race if you have the energy.
iRunFar: Yeah, I was going to ask you to sort of follow that train of thought on where you said, you know, it’s more runnable to Les Contamines, and then it gets into the more technical, like, going up Col du Bonhomme, Col de la Seigne, and then the climb to like, Bertone and Bonatti and Grand Col Ferret. And then there’s some more runnable stuff later on, but then also some more technical. Like, have you, I don’t know, thought through that second half scenario of how you manage what you say you’re less good at with the things that you are good at.
Valmassoi: Yeah. So, I hope to be able to not be too far away in the first part, like until Champex-Lac, I would say. Or even the climb up Grand Col Ferret. The big climbs, I really like those. But yeah, for sure the downhill after La Fouly before climbing up Champex is going to be long. And so yeah, it’s my strategy is to be ready to race actually from Champex-Lac.
Valmassoi: Yeah, so, because there I think there’s like, two really good climbs for me. And yeah, the third one was the best for me, honestly, but well…
iRunFar: Now we’re not doing it this year.
Valmassoi: Yeah, we’re not doing it.
iRunFar: Tête aux Vents becomes a forest run, I think.
Valmassoi: Yeah, so that’s not so fun. But at the end, I was like, yeah. I was bummed at the beginning because I really liked this climb. It’s nice, and it’s all the technical bits after. But there’s high chances that I will be really tired there. [laughs]
Valmassoi: Normally even the technical there will be really hard also for me. So I’m like, maybe it’s not that bad. It’s still climbing. If it was all downhill or all fast running, I would be upset. But it’s still climbing, and you still have to be strong. But for sure the climb up Bovine and the one after Triente, they are two hard ones. So yeah, let’s see. Let’s see. I’ve been looking at the splits from the other years. It’s really interesting to see the different strategies. And I’m just looking forward to race with so many amazing women that they are my friends, most of them. People that has always inspired me so much, so it’s really cool.
iRunFar: And the ones you don’t know, you want to be their friends soon, right?
Valmassoi: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I’m really looking forward honestly. And yeah, it’s more stressful sometimes, the day leading into the race because there are so many things going on. Like, the pressure is growing. But yeah, we’re all here to try to prove something to ourselves mainly. And so yeah, I can’t wait.
iRunFar: Well, best of luck proving something to yourself out there on the UTMB course.
Valmassoi: Thank you. Thank you.