Pro triathlete Alyssa Godesky just shattered Nikki Kimball’s record.
In the pre-dawn hours of July 31, pro triathlete Alyssa Godesky, 33, lay back in a pile of ferns in the forest of southern Vermont and fell asleep. Her legs were propped up and two people were furiously bandaging the open blisters on her feet. She was out cold. “Wake up!” they shouted, prodding her, shining a headlamp shown her face. She did, got back on her feet slowly and marched on. The sun rose and a little after 7:00 a.m., she saw the sign for the southern terminus of the Long Trail. It was only then that she fully realized she had made her goal: she broke the fastest known time (FKT) for a woman hiking the length of the trail.
Five days, two hours and 37 minutes earlier, Godesky had been 273 miles north near the Canadian border. Carrying little more than a Camelbak ultralight hydration pack and carrying a pair of lightweight hiking poles, she’d run and hiked her way across the Greens. Her pit crew met her at trailheads, feeding her and letting her sleep four hours or so in her car and, one blissful night, in a hotel outside of Killington. She went through five pairs of shoes (Altra Timp IQs an Superior 3.5s and Saucony Peregrines.) Wearing Injinji toe socks helped with blisters. She ate like a fiend, downing everything from Ensure on the trail to tater tots at rest stops.
After starting off in the pouring rain (“the trail easily could have been a river,” she wrote) Godesky had made good time up and over Jay Peak, Mount Mansfield, Mt. Mayo and Camel’s Hump meeting up with a small army of pacers.
“After the first two days I was at the same spot that Jonathan had been, sleeping at the trailhead on the Appalachian Gap” she said, referring to Jonathan Basham who set the fastest-known-time [FKT} for the Long Trail in 2009, completing it (supported) in 4 days, 12 hours and 46 minutes. The woman’s record she was also after was set by champion ultrarunner Nikki Kimball when she ran the trail in five days, 7 hours and 42 minutes in 2012.
After racing in more than 30 Ironman-distance triathlons as a sponsored pro and three 100-milers (with a PR of 21:42), she decided this year to train for something different. “I had come to Vermont once in 2007 to run a race up Jay Peak and I remember thinking these trails were so much harder than anything I had ever seen. I loved it here — it was beautiful.”
She had read about the Long Trail and see the documentary about Nikki Kimball’s FKT, “Finding Traction.” Last fall, Godesky booked a few AirBnBs and came to Vermont from her home in Charlottesville, Virginia, to test run sections of the trail. “It was so much harder than I’d imagined,” Godesky said. “I went back to my trainer and said, ‘I’m not sure I can do this.’ Her response was, ‘If that’s how you feel, that’s why you should.’”
Godesky admits it was the hardest thing she has done. But, she adds, “It’s so challenging and so rewarding. You get that in every section of trail. You’re faced tough hiking but then with great views. Out of nowhere you’re rewarded with the beauty and spectacular landscape, even if it’s looking down the green tunnel at the trail ahead. It makes you forget about the challenges you are facing.”
As for what’s next? She’s going to try to get some sleep.
Photo courtesy Alyssa Godesky. A pro triathlete with some top international finishes and 30 Ironman races under her belt, Alyssa Godesky says setting the Long Trail fastest known time is the hardest thing she’s done.