by: Alyssa Godesky
“It’s only going to get worse”
In my earliest years of ultrarunning, when my parents were crewing one of my 50 milers, my dad said these “inspirational” words to me during the race. Nowadays, I sometimes pull out this “advice” as a dose of reality for athletes that I coach who are preparing for their races. Because as brutal as it might sound, it has its truth! And in the moment we are in now, even with all races cleared from everyone’s schedule for the foreseeable future, these words of wisdom have never felt more true. But what my father forgot to also include was that enduring everything, as bad as it might get, will be worth it at the finish line.
Before I go on, I have to say: for those people who are on the front lines of this - from the grocery store employees to the doctors, nurses and other medics around the world - thank you. I can’t even begin to pretend like sport maintains a spot on your list of priorities during this time.
But, today I can offer some perspective as someone who’s profession is “non-essential.” I rely on sport as an important part of maintaining my mental health and keeping me a happy, productive member of society, so that I can continue to be positive and to my “do my part” as a responsible member of the community.
My overarching advice for those who are a bit disappointed, stressed, annoyed - call it what you want - over not having an official race on the calendar is: adventure still awaits. The goals we all woke up with on January 1, 2020 — along with hearts full of hope, airline tickets that were booked, and post-race vacations in mind — are gone, at least for awhile. But there has never been a better time to tap into your intrinsic motivation, find adventure out your backdoor, and expand your vision of where growth can come as an athlete. I hope to offer some insight into non-physical and physical challenges that we can do to get a dose of adventure from in the coming months.
On the Non-physical side….
*Plan an adventure*
It seems like restrictions across the world are different for everyone, and, access to adventure filled outdoor spaces are just as varied. So whether or not you can make this adventure happen now, in a couple months, or maybe it’s something you file away to add into a future season to break up the triathlon-ing — this work is not done for nothing!
When I was training to set the Fastest Known Time on Vermont’s Long Trail, one of the hardest things to make time for was not all of the training — it was all of the planning!! Despite having a 365 day planning period from when I decided to do the Long Trail, making the time to really plan that out was one of the most stressful things. Consider this upfront planning time like “money in the bank” — so when the time comes and life is more normal, you can execute said adventure…..you’ll be just about ready to hit the ground running!
So, what does it mean to plan an adventure? What am I even talking about here? Some of my favorite adventures have been things like:
Running Rim2Rim2Rim in the Grand Canyon in one day
A 3 day bike trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway where we mailed supplies to motels along the way
And of course, running Vermont’s Long Trail
Depending on the adventure that you are looking at, the research for this can vary widely. My advice is always to envision your research in such a way that you are writing your own athlete guide for the event. Just as you look at the athlete guide to answer your questions going into a race, this should have everything you’d need to complete the adventure. This means considering things like:
Safety - Is this safe to do solo? Should you have a crew? Is there terrain that you shouldn’t be on at night? Will you have cell phone reception?
Logistics - This includes things like how will you get there? How will you get home? How would your crew get there? What is your fueling plan? What are your goal times and expectations on pacing so you can plan food, gear, etc? Where can you resupply food and water?
Gear - Everything from what Smashfest Queen tank top you’d wear to how much chamois cream needs to get packed. Make lists!
Learn from other’s mistakes - I find it a fun way to continue to build excitement for my adventure by reading about when other people have done this. A simple google search will help you get started finding blogs, trip reports and even books to read that can help you get excited. Always make sure to take note of their mistakes to learn from!
You might not realize it, but you can train for anything I mentioned above from your home and neighborhood. The training at home might not be as exciting as you’d hope, but it can get done. Which brings us to….
The Physical Side
While we are restricted on the training side of things, there are still plenty of ways to think outside the box and lay down some solid training for an adventure.
With a trainer, you can do all the riding to get yourself ready for that multiday bike trip! For adventures on foot, strength training can go a long way — I recently challenged myself to set some “vert” goals with a week of training, getting in over 27,000 ft of climbing in one week of running and hiking! This made me think of the “Everesting” challenges where you try to get up to 30,000 ft - the elevation of Mount Everest. Maybe you try to do that over the span of a month — it’s much harder than it sounds! If you have a treadmill that inclines, or even just one hill in your neighborhood, you can train for this!
If you are looking for miles, you could start your own “Every Single Street” project around your home. The miles will build up much faster than you expect. This is also a cool project that can stop/start at any time!
I’m also getting excited for the virtual races that are popping up….You can even create your own. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to race on your own training roads? Now could be the time to try it out!
You can also do something “just because you can.” I can’t tell you how many times during an Ironman I have thought “this is hard, but at least I’m not doing ______” — insert my least favorite workouts!! Being “stuck” at home is an opportunity to do some hard things that will make you mentally tough. Mundane, repetitive training is often where the magic happens - both mentally and physically. Why did I run up a well-known training incline in my ‘hood 100x last week? Well, because I could! And, because I knew it would be a character building experience that I can draw on for future adventures.
So…yes, as my dad says, it might still get worse for quite awhile. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, and the last couple weeks have reminded us of that more than ever. I do know, however, that no matter what my restrictions are for the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be dreaming, planning, and getting ready to #setgoalssmashgoals no matter what. Because we know that no matter how bad it gets, if we keep working towards that finish line, it will be worth it when we’re on the other side!
Alyssa Godesky is a Smashfest Queen- sponsored professional triathlete and champion ultra runner who owns the FKT for the 273-mile Vermont’s Long Trail. She also offers 1:1 endurance coaching for motivated athletes of all abilities.