by Alyssa Godesky
Last season, I raced six Ironmans. The year before that, I raced five (okay, 4.5 because I crashed in Wanaka). The year before that? Five. See a pattern here? It is clear that I love the distance...but I also respect the sport. And, I noticed something last season when I was in Taiwan, the fateful race where my bike and gear didn’t arrive. I was forced to find work-arounds, borrow gear, and rely on the (extreme) kindness of the community to get me what I needed to race. And then, I had a respectable race.
After doing that, I realized that ironman racing no longer was scaring me. I was able to complete one with borrowed gear, and to be honest, it didn’t phase me that much. When I realized this, I had a problem with that. In fact, I had a BIG problem with that. I put in too much training to have that casual of an attitude about it! I tell people that my goal is to make it atop the ironman podium one day (in a race with more than 3 people!) — but was my attitude really in the right spot to accomplish that? Where was the hunger and the drive? Ironman had become somewhat laissez-faire. The hunger in the races wasn’t there like it used to be.
Luckily I have been racing long enough to know that this isn’t cause for panic. Like fitness, motivation for racing comes and goes. It has to be trained and given patience. It has to be given space at times.
So I stuck true to my commitments for the season and raced the remainder of the races. But my mind began to think outside the box, wandering over to the bucket list to see what might make sense next. After deciding once again that “cycling down the Baja peninsula” really just seems to dangerous, I kept circling back to trail running adventures.
With my background in ultrarunning, multi-day trail running has always intrigued me. And in the past couple years when the political climate has threatened the accessibility of our public lands and National Parks, I have felt myself gravitating back to the trails more and more. I grew up outdoors: I had the freedom to ride my bike to the pool all summer growing up (a whole mile and a half as an 8 year old! Which route to take?! Would I ride with two hands, one hands, or no hands? I was a very skilled cyclist as a youngster…don’t tell my mom). My family took camping trips often, both locally and across the country to see Zion, the Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon. The outdoors have always been a place where amidst a sense of wonderment, and despite a sense that I am very insignificant in the grand scheme of the world, I have felt safe, and I have felt like I belonged.
But…back to the multi-day trail running. I have had a lot of ideas over the years now, ones that I always felt would be “retirement” projects after my triathlon-ing days were over. But last fall, in an effort to hopefully get myself past this little motivation issue, I planned a trip up to Vermont to run some trails, and decided that one of my ideas wasn’t something I wanted to save for retirement after all. Maybe it was the perfect fall weather I got lucky with in October (a time when often it can be winter in Vermont!). Maybe it was my hopeless devotion to East coast trails (beast coast!). Or maybe it was the fact that I saw how challenging these trails are, and I didn't want to sacrifice my recovery capabilities as a young thirty-something. But whatever it was, my heart told me that this felt right.
So, here it is: this summer I’ll be running the length of the Vermont Long Trail (273 miles), and seeing how fast I can do so. The current women’s record is 5 days, 7 hours, and 42 minutes. Can I surpass that? I think so.
There is something about the unknown that excites me and terrifies me. I’m excited about the opportunity to put myself in a position where I have to figure out what it is that will make me continue, when so many things are telling me not to. I’m excited to be in a position where even failure will be a heck of a ride. I’ve found my mojo again, and it’s in Vermont. I hope you will follow along in my journey this summer!
Alyssa Godesky is a Smashfest Queen-sponsored professional triathlete. You can read more about her and our pro team here.