Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Many the Miles

Scenario: a racing season that started with a half ironman in January. 3 Ironmans. 2 age group victories in said Ironmans. 10th place in the age group at the World Championship. Personal bests in every discipline, including a 15 minute distance best on the world's biggest stage. Qualifying to compete as a professional for 2014.

With all that, you'd expect that person's off-season to include a whole lotta nothing.

But Alyssa Godesky is anything but a typical athlete, and fueled by a desire to get back to her first love - racing ultras - she decided she had the legs to return to the JFK 50 Miler on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

When she first came to Baltimore at age 23 in 2008 she ran JFK in 8:05:18, and finished 5th. At the time it was her 4th consecutive finish and she'd gotten faster each year. In the 2009 edition, however, she had to withdraw during the race. Not long after that, she committed to full-time triathlon training and racing, and soon ultras took a bit of a backseat. Yearning for solo time on the trails she enjoys, the timing worked out to return to JFK for 2013.

In endurance events, finishes are never guaranteed. So much has to go right leading up to the race and on race day, and there's so much time for things to go wrong. Alyssa's recovery following Kona and subsequent JFK build-up had gone "perfect," she said, thanks to guidance from her coach, Hillary Biscay. And so, just 6 weeks after the Ironman, she was on the line in Boonsboro. She came off the Appalachian Trail at the mile 15.4 mark as the 3rd place woman, and was ahead of a lot of men. Clearly her trail running skills had not deteriorated. The next segment is a full marathon (plus a little) on the flat C&O Canal towpath. If I were racing, this is where I'd lose it. Every stride is the same, and after 2 hours getting beat up on the trails, it's got to be so painful. Especially when you see mile markers telling you exactly how much you still have left!

We caught up with Alyssa at mile 27, where she had slipped back to 5th. A couple of girls had passed her and were running together, dropping miles in the mid 7s. Finding the pace a bit unsustainable, Alyssa continued with her race plan. We saw her again at mile 41 and here is where we got a "why did I do this again?" The good news was that she didn't realize she had reached the end of the towpath, so that came as a pleasant surprise. Just 8 rolling road miles remained in the race. She was now in 6th, but headed to what was going to surely be a sub 7:40 finish. She blazed into the finish at Williamsport Middle School in 7:38:20 - 27 minutes faster than 5 years ago, and 6th among the women. It was an incredible race and she has certainly earned some downtime now.

Also competing on Saturday was Henry Peck. In case you weren't aware, Henry and his son Graham hold the World Record for fastest father-son marathon combo (at the same race) with their incredibly fast times at last year's Chicago Marathon. For Mr. Peck, races like this are kind of old hat, just another Saturday run for him. In fact, he had just run the Stone Mill 50 Miler the previous weekend, and Graham suggested that he'd run a bunch of long races recently.

Last year, Mr. Peck ran 7:47. Far from his best, but consider for a second this is a guy in his mid 50s who has run a lot of races over the years. He came off the AT behind quite a few people, but his confidence never wavered. He looked good, and ready to attack the towpath. By mile 27 he had started to pick off a bunch of people, and his pace was considerably faster than many in front of him. And he looked stronger than most as well. He just kept ticking away, running everyone in front of him down.

At mile 41, when the day had become cloudy, much windier, and a whole lot lonelier, he was still chugging along, raising his arms in the air and giving us thumbs up. He caught up to Alyssa right around here, and really started cooking on the road. In a car, the last 8 miles seemed much shorter, but I can only imagine how long they felt for the runners.

I'm not sure what place he was in off the AT, but he moved all the way up to 42nd at the finish, crossing the line in 7:33:20. That's a whopping 14 minutes faster than last year! He slammed a couple brews and looked like he hadn't even run 50 miles.

For their efforts, we awarded the Purple Drink Athlete of the Week to Alyssa, and the NOS Button Award to Mr. Peck. Congrats to you both on some amazing races this weekend!

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