• Richard McDonough

Co-Movement Gym: A is A Health Podcast S1E23 - Alyssa Godesky; Fastest Female Long Trail & ADK 46er

Updated: Oct 8

Alyssa Godesky is a professional triathlete, ultra runner, and endurance sports coach. She holds the records for the fastest known time on the Vermont Long Trail, and the Adirondack 46er Challenge. She is a 33-time Iron Man finisher, and 45-time ultra marathon finisher.

What does a full Iron Man entail?

It is a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and then a 26.2-mile run. These events are raced back to back to back.

How does an Iron Man differ from an ultra-marathon?

One big difference is the length of the event, Iron Mans are always the same, whereas an ultra can take anywhere from 5 to 30 hours. Nutrition is also very different, because the different events require different fueling strategies. This is especially the case with ultras because the caloric requirement is so high. The biggest difference though is the repeated stress of ultras. This is due to the fact that you are only using one set of muscles (one movement pattern) for the entire event, whereas an Iron Man challenges the whole body more, thanks to the inclusion of swim and bike.

What ultra-marathon distances have you raced?

50K, 50 mile, 100K, and 100 miles. Alyssa’s favorite distance is 100K.

What does recovery look like after running 100 miles?

Usually Alyssa has to lay low for about a week after racing 100 miles. She will take a couple days rest after one of these events, but then will try to get out for some short, easy runs later that week for active recovery.

What three 100-milers have you raced?

Western States, the H.U.R.T. 100, and Old Dominion.

Alyssa recounts that her first 100 miler, Western States was incredibly challenging. She mentions already feeling pretty beat up before even reaching the half way point. Her goal for this race was simply to finish, which she did.

Do you think ultra athletes have a special relationship with suffering? Like, they know how to embrace it somehow?

Yes, that is a big part of it. Alyssa says that one of the biggest things she has to work with clients on is preparing them for the level of suffering they will experience in these long events. She says that having a supportive crew is a big part of this. One thing she’s learned is that, no matter how hard these events get, they always seem to get better at some point too – so the key is to just keep going through the hard parts, trusting that you’ll eventually pull through them.

Alyssa discusses the “highs and lows” of an ultra-race. She feels that a key to getting through the lows is proper nutrition. It’s also important to stay optimistic and remember that the low periods don’t last forever. Part of Alyssa’s training actually involves workouts that she knows she’ll struggle with or even fail. The point of these workouts is to learn to troubleshoot and figure out how to keep going when the challenge seems insurmountable.

Is the mental challenge part of the fun of these events?

It definitely can be. All these races are so different and the conditions are so variable that planning and strategizing becomes an interesting aspect of the event. There are a lot of unknowns to deal with and work around.

Regarding Iron Mans, were you naturally good at all 3 events? Was there one that was harder for you to learn?

Alyssa feels that her success comes from being average to above average in all 3 events. That said, she did have to work hard at all 3 of them. She does note that training each event does make you better in the others – there is a cross training element here that she feels is valuable.

How did you build up to being able to run these long distances?

Alyssa had an athletic background which did help her, including running some 5-10K races as a kid. That said, she did jump into these long events pretty quickly. At the Naval academy she wanted to join the marathon team, but this required running a Boston Marathon qualifying time in order to join. The qualifying marathon had already been run, but her coach agreed that if Alyssa could complete the JFK 50K then she could join the team. At that point, Alyssa had never run further than 16 miles. The JFK 50K was by far the furthest that Alyssa had ever run, but she completed the event in the required time and made the team.

When it comes to progressing for these big events, Alyssa says there are 2 keys. First, are you really inspired to do this race? There are many days during training where your motivation will wane, so it’s important that you’re truly inspired and really want to do the goal race because this will help you stay consistent with your training. Second, you need to ask yourself if you’re really willing to put in the work. Training will take a considerable amount of time, and it’s important to understand and be okay with this before you even begin training.

What is an FKT event?

FKT stands for fastest known time. This involves running/hiking a popular trail and attempting to complete it faster than anyone else ever has. It can be done supported, self-supported, or unsupported.

Alyssa holds 2 FKT records, the Vermont Long Trail and ADK 46 High Peaks. Both were supported, meaning that she had a crew along to help her in various ways.

We discuss the ADK 46er FKT.

Alyssa has the record for fastest female ever to finish, and second fastest time overall. She completed all 46 High Peaks in 3 days, 16 hours, and 16 minutes. This involved 160 miles of ground covered on foot, and 67,000 feet of elevation gain. Alyssa says the elevation gain was the most difficult aspect.

Alyssa discusses her preparation for the 46er challenge. This involved a handful of trips up to the Adirondacks to scout the terrain and plan a route. One big obstacle was the bushwhacking sections of the trail, which Alyssa prepared for with some general orienteering training.

Alyssa talks about how each day works in terms of logistics. This involves planning drop-offs, pick-ups, short naps, and meal times. She slept for roughly 2-4 hours between major sections of the challenge.

Alyssa discusses the importance of her crew. Her crew was comprised of 6-8 people. She talks about their various roles and how critical they were to her success.

What are you eating during this event?

The most important thing is just getting enough calories. Digestibility is probably the most important thing. You really want to avoid GI upset during these long events. Alyssa uses gels and other typical endurance fuels, but she also tries to get real food calories from a variety of sources. Generally, she listens to her body and consumes whatever she is craving at the time.

Is your nutrition for an Iron Man different?

Yes. During Iron Mans Alyssa can simply consume high carb gels and drinks and perform well.

On the ADK 46, how much walking do you do?

Walking is a big part of the event, especially on the up hills and more technical terrain. Alyssa tried to gain time by running on the flat sections and moderate down hills.

Do you do strength or mobility work? How does this support your efforts for these events?

Alyssa does 2 days per week of strength training. She focuses on core work and leg strengthening. Additionally, she hikes hills with a 20-30lbs weight vest.

Alyssa discusses the importance of keeping strength training simple and basic.

Her primary focus has been on glute and hamstring strengthening because these large muscles are so important for uphill hiking.

What are a few exercises or stretches you’ve found most useful?

Alyssa really likes the pigeon stretch, some simple spinal rotations that she performs on her back, and ankle mobility drills.

Do you utilize other modalities?

Alyssa sees a massage therapist once per week. She feels this is incredibly useful or lower body recovery. She also uses a HyperVolt for self-massage, and Norma Tec boots for lower leg massage and recovery. Epsom salt baths are another thing she finds useful to soothe and recover her legs.

How many hours per week are you training?

Usually close to 20-30 hours per week.

Who inspires you?

Alyssa’s coach Hillary Basque has been a major inspiration and motivator. Alyssa also gets inspiration from recent achievements in the Tokyo Olympics.

What are a few books that have influenced you?

The Pursuit of Endurance, Once A Runner, Why We Swim, and some random non-fiction.

What’s a favorite cheat meal?

Alyssa likes a burger and sweet potato fries from a good brewery. She also likes ice cream.

If you could put up a road sign somewhere, what would it say?

Something along the lines of “caution, athletes in training.” Alyssa warns that running and cycling is dangerous on busy roads and it would be nice to see some signs alerting drivers to the fact that they need to keep their eyes peeled for these athletes.

Do you have a favorite failure?

Perhaps not finishing her time in the Navy. This taught her that it’s important to choose your own path in life, and not just do what you think others expect of you.

Any future goals?

Alyssa would like to do a little more racing in Iron Man events. She’s also looking into the New Hampshire 48 High Peaks FKT.

Advise for a beginner to endurance events?

Focus on consistency first. Don’t worry about distances or times, just try to get out and do a little every day. If you learn to enjoy the consistency, the fitness will come.

How can listeners learn more about you?


Podcast: Iron Women Podcast, new episodes every Thursday

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