Maite Maiora, you finished third in the UTMB in 2019, in 2021 you had to give it up due to stomach problems, you have announced that you will not be in this edition, why?
I can't for work reasons, as soon as my work schedule came out I saw that it was impossible and that's why I thought about the season in a different way and decided to do the Skyrunning World Series.
what is skyrunning?
Skyrunning is the very origin of the sport, when it wasn't even called trail running. It's also in my roots, I started with skyrunning. Basically it's about going up to peaks and coming down, as fast as possible, whereas trail running is more about the passes to get over mountains or around them. It's a different form of running, shorter and more technical.
• What do you like most about skyrunning?
Normally the descents are where I was at my best, where I made a difference, I'm still good on the descents but it's true that now I'm a bit more careful on them. I've always liked going downhill to the death and now I see them as having a more strategic component.
But you recently took part in an ultra, the Val d'Aran by UTMB, ultras are still on your mind, aren't they?
Yes, of course, I still like it and I hope to come back next year or even this year when the skyrunning season is over. I had a gap in the calendar and there was the Val d'Aran, obviously I wasn't up for the longer distances but it was still seven hours, it wasn't exactly a walk.
Did the race go as planned?
No, it went much better! I felt great, I enjoyed a good part of the race with Emily Schmitz (an American runner I already knew) and the landscapes were amazing, I really enjoyed the day.
Best part of the race?
The scenery, the surroundings, it was really beautiful. And of my race itself, the last long climb where I felt very strong, I was opening a gap with Emily and I felt that I was going easy. Also the final descent, I was focused on not making mistakes but enjoying myself, I knew it was up to me and I didn't fail. And, as always, the last few hundred metres in the village with the crowd cheering me on, the satisfaction of feeling so good, it was great.
What made you decide to do ultras and how do you train?
The best thing is the amount of time you spend in the mountains, training and competing. On the training you have to put in the hours and kilometres without forgetting strength and track series. It's a combination of many types of training that have to work together. The big difference is that from time to time I have to do 40-50-60 kilometres training with a lot of elevation gain. And even more important, to be able to recover from these efforts.
Which ultra race is your favourite and why?
Probably the UTMB for what it represents... and because I made the podium in 2019. It was like a dream come true. I understood why it's such a big race and the most important ultra on the calendar. But I don't close my eyes to other races, there are so many races out there in places that look amazing.
What are you next ultra goals.
I have been contacted by a race at the end of the year, I prefer not to say which one but it is very far away and the truth is that I was very excited.
Who helps you at refreshment posts and what is the most important thing they should help you with?
My husband Losu helps me, we always plan the refreshment posts very well. A nutritionist has been helping me for a long time, nutrition is very important in ultras and I more or less know what is good for me and what is not. But you have to keep an open mind and adapt to the race, to that day, to how the race goes, to what you assimilate and what you don't assimilate. For example, in Val d'Aran there was no external assistance, so I ate what I had with me, I carried all my food in my backpack and that way I avoided possible problems. Recently I have discovered that there are foods that don't suit me, in UTMB 2021 I had to give up because of my stomach and studying it we have seen that certain foods don't work at all well for me. Of course we carry a lot of material just in case, in case there are changes in the weather, occasionally I change my shoes when I see that, for example, there is more humidity than I expected and maybe I had already foreseen that.
What’s the worst moment you have experienced during an ultra, and what’s the best.
The worst was abandoning the UTMB last year, I was destroyed, my stomach wouldn't let be eat or digest, I had no energy, nothing. The best momen was at the UTMB pre-pandemic in 2019, I made the podium but above all I went from feeling negative then moving forward to feeling strong, positive and able to enjoy myself, I really didn't expect it, it was like a dream came true.
What's on your mind just before you set off and what are your thoughts as soon as you cross the finish line?
I just want to go out and run, the last few minutes are not quite calm, we look relaxed but there is tension inside and you leave it behind when you start running, whatever happens at least you are moving. When you cross the finish line the first thing I feel is to leave that pressure behind, I'm very demanding of myself and once you cross the finish line it's over, whether it went well or badly it's over and the pressure is off. Of course performance is important, I train to do my best but even if I don't do well I can also draw conclusions to learn from the bad days.