Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Day Was a Fairytale

Honey Badger Don't Care
And now for the recap on our second PDAW winner, Alyssa Godesky.

Part II: Alyssa Says Aloha to the Big Island

Alyssa, as we've always known her, is a tremendous endurance athlete, having competed in some of the biggest ultra marathons on the continent.  She has also experienced success in the world of multisport, with finishes at Ironman Louisville 2009 and Ironman Wisconsin 2010.  In 2009, she went under 12 hours, in spite of her negligible volume of swimming and cycling.  A year later, with a hair more swimming under her belt, and much more cycling, she went faster, to the tune of an 11:36. 

It was around this time that she began to think seriously about her goals and what she wanted to get out of the sport, and she decided to commit fully to triathlon - after one more January ultra.  She got in touch with multiple-Ironman champion, Hillary Biscay, to coach her, and dedicated every day to doing the training necessary to realize her ultimate goal: qualify for the World Championships in Kona.

The work was far from easy, in fact, it was the hardest training she'd ever done.  There were days when she surely would have preferred running alone in the woods for 6+ hours to the monster swim, bike, and run workouts Hillary was putting her through.  But something crazy happened: she quickly saw results, running PRs in distances from the mile to the half marathon, and found herself on a number of triathlon podiums. 

By the time the summer rolled around, she seemed fit and ready to go for Ironman Louisville.  The training had been perfect, but on race day, something didn't connect right, and her race came apart at the seams on the run.  It was disappointing, but the prospect of Ironman Arizona kept her in the game.

Training for one Ironman a year is tough.  Training for another one, just 11 short weeks after the first, and having those weeks come in the fall, when the weather starts to make you not want to put in the long days, was going to be a real challenge.  Ultimately, the work got done, and once again it was time to toe the invisible line in Tempe Town Lake for her 4th Ironman.

Ironman is a long, strange day.  Like any race, there are times when you feel great, and times when you feel like you're going to die.  You can have a great swim, feel terrible on the bike, but then have a great run.  You can feel off from the start.  You can feel better as the day goes on.  Whatever the case, you have to know how to budget your energy for 8 (if you're a pro) to 17 (if you're the last finisher) hours. 

Alyssa has written her own report(s) on her blog, which I'm sure many of you have read, but it's probably harder for her to realize just how her accomplishment measures up.  Fortunately, while I can't personally race anything well myself, I can put words to performances. 

Alyssa finished 21st out of amateur women, and 44th overall.  Her time (10:45:51) was a 50 minute improvement over her Wisconsin time, with a 1:05:38 swim, 5:45 bike split and an astounding 3:47 marathon that was the fastest run of her 25-29 age group.  In the age group, she finished 2nd.  The bike split is particularly impressive considering she got a flat on the second loop, and lost about 10 minutes getting it fixed. 

But most eye-popping was her run.  If you ever get the chance to compete in an Ironman, you'll see that anybody can put down a good swim and ride, but to string together 26 and some change miles after all that, well that's a different story.  Alyssa came into this race with an open marathon time of 3:31, from Marine Corps 2008.  While she would agree that it's probably a "soft" PR now, it's still just 16 minutes faster than what she ran on Sunday off the bike.  Her previous best Ironman run was 4:05 at Louisville 2009.

At Ironman events, you qualify for Kona solely based on your finishing place within your age group.  In F25-29, there are generally never more than 2 slots, due to the small field size.  It doesn't mean it's any less competitive, necessarily, and Alyssa knew what kind of times would usually place in the group.  Her goal for the year was to go 10:45.  Out of the water in 6th, and holding serve on the bike, that meant she had some serious work to do on the run.  She went to it and was running low 8 minute pace for the first half, before slowing a little.  But when she heard she was 3.5 minutes down on 2nd with 10k to go, she knew she was going to have to go faster.  The good news was that the girl in front of her was fading hard, and Alyssa was still moving great.  With Zero and Claire on course, they were able to count the time in between 2nd and Alyssa, and the gap was closing with every footfall. 

With a mile to go, the lead was 20-30 seconds.  Running on adrenaline, Alyssa hit her NOS button at just the right time, and blazed past the girl inside of a half mile before the finish, and held her off.  She crossed the line and collapsed, every ounce of energy had been left on the course.  Before the brought her to the med tent, she was able to find coach Hillary and let her know that "she got her" and, barring unforeseen circumstance, would pick up the 2nd of 2 Kona slots. 

When the results were confirmed, Alyssa had qualified for the World Championship, and had done so by hitting her time goal of 10:45. 

To qualify for Hawaii is an amazing feat.  To do it by running someone down in the last half mile, now that's EARNING it.  Truly awesome.  And now, armed with speed and confidence, what will 2012 have in store for Alyssa?


Christy said...

Alyssa, you are amazing! Can't wait to see what you do in Hawaii!

Meg said...

I second that. Incredible!

alyssa said...

Thanks ladies!

Chrissie - so pumped for you too! I am sure you'll rep us well in Houston:)

Sara said...

In awe of both you ladies (Alyssa and Chrissie)!!!