Alyssa Godesky Claims the Overall Record for the New Hampshire 48
By Anneka Williams
Alyssa on Bond Cliff wrapping up Day 1. Courtesy Photo.
On July 9th, 2022, Alyssa Godesky ran down the summit of Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire to finish in the parking lot. But this wasn’t the end to just an ordinary day hike. Godesky's return to the trailhead marked the finale of an ambitious, multi-day project to see how quickly she could scale all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4000 foot peaks. Her time – 3 days, 8 hours, and 56 minutes – makes her the fastest person – ever – to complete this challenge.
Godesky ran her first ultrarace – the JFK 50 miler – at age 20. Despite the fact that she approached this first race with very little training and no prior experience, Godesky was hooked. “It opened up a whole new world for me,” she recalls, “I realized I could hold my favorite, slower pace for a really long time and that would be really good for these types of events.” Initially, her athletic career focused on triathlons, a discipline in which she competed professionally. More recently, however, the 37 year old has shifted her focus to longer trail and mountain efforts.
In 2018, Godesky set the Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont’s Long Trail (5 days, 2 hours, 37 minutes to cover 273 miles) and in 2020 she set the FKT of the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks (3 days, 16 hours, 16 minutes).
“I never thought of myself as a peak bagger,” Godesky reflects, “but I like the concept of having X amount of peaks, planning the route, and then trying to do it as fast as possible.” Following these accomplishments, the White Mountain 48 seemed like a somewhat logical next step. “The New Hampshire 48 was always on my radar,” Godesky says, “and I thought it would be a nice exclamation point on my previous accomplishments to hold all three supported records at one time.”
Gambling a bit with weather, Godesky picked the date for her New Hampshire 48 FKT attempt back in January 2022. “It’s hard – you don’t get to negotiate with the weather window when you set a date so far in advance,” she explains, “but I wanted to decide early for the purpose of crew planning and making sure people had the time they needed to get off work to come and support me.”
Heading into the summer NH 48 FKT attempt, Godesky was coming off an attempt at the grueling Barkley Marathon in March. Working with her coach – Hillary Biscay – Godesky started to focus on training more leg speed in May. “I wanted to make sure I had some leg speed and that I was capable of running on any terrain in the Whites that I came across,” she explains. This involved treadmill running, track workouts, and even back-to-back 50km race weekends. By June, however, Godesky was focusing on more terrain-specific training: “June is the perfect time to be getting back into the White Mountains and I shifted gears and went into vert mode.”
Up to this point, Godesky had her sights set on beating the overall FKT for the New Hampshire 48 set by Andrew Thompson in 2014. However, at the end of June 2022, the FKT was lowered by Will Peterson.
“I had a day of being like ‘what do I do?’” Godesky reflects, “But I was actually able to use Will’s new record to my advantage. I could look at his well-documented Strava routes and check those against my own projections.” Ultimately, Godesky decided to cut down her rest time and recalibrate her plan to try and beat Will’s new record.
The mental challenges of competing are not new to Godesky’s FKT attempts. During her Adirondack’s High Peaks FKT attempt, Godesky was racing Sarah Keys. “When I raced Sarah, I was really nervous,” Godesky recalls. “On paper, Sarah is a much faster runner than I am but I’ve always believed you don’t have to be the fastest runner to do something like this and come out on top. I’m just always curious to see that in play.” Long FKT attempts like this, however, are not just about pure speed.
“It’s not just about racing up a mountain,” Godesky explains. “It’s about logistical planning, support crew, mental state going into it, and taking confidence from all of that.”
Alyssa and crew taking a break at Galehead Hut. Courtesy Photo.
Going into the White Mountain 48 FKT attempt, Godesky had a high level of confidence in her logistical planning and a strong crew of 14 people behind her. She began her NH 48 effort on July 6, 2022.
One of the hardest parts of a big, multi-day effort is staying focused. “It’s hard to stay focused for more than 3 days straight,” Godesky laughs, “My crew are the people that need to be focused when I’m not, and I rely on them to help me focus and get me back to the mental edge where I believe I can do it.”
Nutrition and rest are also important components of longer efforts. “I’m shooting for 250 calories per hour as a baseline minimum of what I want,” Godesky explains. On the trail calories often take the form of candy and Spring Energy gels, but in the van she says that “it really comes down to what sounds good and what I’m able to eat,” which can range from McDonald’s chicken nuggets, to ramen, to Spaghetti-Os. And Godesky tries to relax and put her feet up while shuttling between different trail heads.
It can be hard to gauge performance throughout such a long effort and Godesky recalls feeling uncertain about whether her effort would be strong enough to beat the NH 48 record: “If you look at it on paper, the start of day 3 that was probably the point when I pulled ahead and started to gain time, but that was also probably the day that I thought I was actually slowing down and losing time, so I didn’t actually realize it.”
The turning point for her came on Mount Carrigain, in Bartlett, New Hampshire:“I ended up being 30 minutes ahead of what I anticipated on Carrigain,” Godesky remembers. “Even though I was really tired I knew that was good and that I had banked enough time that as long as I continued to move okay I could maybe do this.”
Godesky nabbed the record with a speedy final peak – Moosilauke – finishing with the new overall record of 3 days, 8 hours, and 56 minutes.
#48. Alyssa and her team pause for a summit photo on Mt. Moosilauke. Photo: Andrew Drummond.
Reflecting on what this achievement means to her, Godeksy is proud of the effort she put in: “The record could certainly go down, but this was my top physical and mental performance that I’ve had so far going for an FKT. And it’s certainly special to hold the overall record.”
But Godesky also acknowledges the importance of the trail community to an effort like this. “With the support from Will Peterson (previous overall NH 48 record holder) and Stephanie Bishop (NH 48 women’s record) and talking to Andrew Drummond a little bit, I’m just grateful to be in a community where it’s teamwork. We all want to see these records get faster and faster and see what people are capable of. And that’s pretty unique.”
Godesky’s record has also resonated through a broader community. “There’s definitely been a lot of support and only really positive things,” Godesky says. “It’s neat because not everyone even knows about the New Hampshire 48 and I’ve heard from people who learned about the NH 48 from my record and now want to start hiking.”
While Godesky is quick to acknowledge that everyone’s experience with long trail efforts is different, she also has advice for those interested in trying out multi-day projects such as the White Mountains 48:
- doing the research is really important; it’s better to be over prepared than underprepared, especially for a multi-day project
- Be patient; it can take a lot of time and practice to successfully take on longer day efforts
- Don’t be scared to try new things out, whether that’s practicing running at night or just being on a trail alone
- Identify what skills you need to learn; reading a map, nutrition planning, moving through different terrain, acquiring the necessary gear, etc.
While Godesky doesn’t have any FKT attempts set in stone for the future, she won’t be slowing down any time soon. In August she completed the 5-day ITERA adventure race in Scotland and in September she’ll be competing in the Adventure Race National Championship in California. “I’m planning on doing a lot more adventure races coming up,” Godesky explains. “It’s really good training for ultrarunning and FKT attempts and good sleep deprivation and nutrition practice.”
Godesky has also toyed with the idea of attempting an FKT on the Appalachian Trail (AT): “I think I’m finally feeling confident enough that I have experience to put together a good effort on it. Resource and crew demands for the AT are high so it’s sort of a one time shot and I’d want it to be 100% my best effort.”