As I’m writing this, it’s been ten days since I set a women’s supported Fastest Known Time for the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks. It’s been ten days of catching up on sleep and calories, cleaning and organizing gear bins, laundry, and reflection. I’ve also been fortunate to have the opportunity for several podcasts and interviews, allowing me to reflect on this journey. I have quick answers to most of their questions, from how many calories was I eating (~300 an hour), how many pairs of shoes I used (4 pairs of VJ Shoes — 3 MAXX and 1 XTRM), to my favorite peak (Haystack!).
The question that continues to give me pause, however, is one that I would certainly expect to be asked in the aftermath: “What was your lowest moment? Can you tell us about a time when you were really struggling and didn’t know if you’d continue?”
To be clear, this isn’t because I felt like the 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes was easy. But, there truly was never a time when I sat down, put my head in my hands, and wondered how I’d make it to the end. And with 160 miles and over 65,000 ft of elevation gain, it’s not lost on me how remarkable that is.
So…..why is that? I’ve certainly had those low points happen in races and adventures before, why was this one different? This is the question I’ve been really digging into the last few days, and I have a few thoughts to share:
*Preparation is Queen. There was a binder that held all the secrets to success for this adventure. There were a lot of spreadsheets. And plenty of maps. Especially in the weeks leading up to the run, I was up later than I wanted to be, finalizing crew plans and making sure that I had my time projections correct and making sure I had plenty of supplies on hand. But every minute of that was 100% worthwhile. Not only did I not have any doubt when I went into the woods on Day 1 that my crew had everything they needed to be successful, but I myself knew the ins and outs of this adventure - the timing, the route, the fueling plans, etc — to a T. I wasn’t relying on anyone else for this information. The fact that there were no underlying questions or unknowns gave me confidence about my ability to do this. Flexibility is important as you go when things come up, but feeling like I knew what was ahead inside and out really helped me mentally prepare. I was going to carefully expend physical and mental energy along the way since I knew what would be ahead.
*Building my courage. When I ran Vermont’s Long Trail in 2018, the only parts of that trail that made me nervous were the four peaks above 4,000ft. That kind of terrain will always make me a bit uneasy — the changing weather patterns, tough terrain, steep cliffs….it simply makes me nervous! So to have taken on a challenge with 46 peaks above 4,000 ft may have seemed a little backwards. Over the last year I had to build my courage to tackle these peaks — I trained in most any weather conditions, researched the right gear to have, and, practiced. When I’d get nervous approaching a mountain summit, I’d remind myself to find my courage by repeating to myself “Eddie would go.” If you don’t know the story of iconic surfer Eddie Aikau, I definitely recommend looking it up and it might help you find your courage too!
*Running for more than myself. For the first time in my career as a professional athlete, I had partnered with an organization in a fundraising effort - I was raising money for the Paden Institute & Retreat for Writers of Color. In a year when so much seems upside-down, it was meaningful to not only get to get out and “race” - but to do it while standing up for something….that absolutely gave me new inspiration to draw on for energy. I was thrilled beyond words with the support of the fundraiser, and being able to draw on the support of the people who had donated as part of their belief in what I could do was powerful as I moved between peaks.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably figured out I don’t have the final answer to say what carried me through this adventure without a major low moment. And, I could probably list ten other things that are important to help curb major meltdowns on the trail during something like this - gear, nutrition, etc! I hope that my takeaways, of being as prepared as possible, reminding myself to have courage, and finding something larger than myself to run for have given you ideas of ways to fly high through your next adventure!
You can still support my fundraiser for the Paden Institute through the GoFundMe page here.
Alyssa Godesky is an Endurance sports coach, professional triathlete and an ultra runner. Her list of accomplishments include 33x Ironman Finisher, 45x Ultramarathon Finisher, and FKT's including the Vermont Long Trail for supported Female. She now also holds the FKT for the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks.