This Woman Downed Taco Bell to Crush a 273-Mile Record – Runner’s World

This Woman Downed Taco Bell to Crush a 273-Mile Record  Runner’s World

Professional triathlete Alyssa Godesky isn’t your conventional ultrarunner. She ran the Vermont Long Trail in record time.

Lots of running, little sleep, and fast food.

That was the recipe that helped Alyssa Godesky smash the women’s fastest known time (FKT) record for the little-known—and deceptively brutal—Vermont Long Trail. On July 31, the professional triathlete finished the 273-mile trek in just 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes, a speed that eclipsed the previous female FKT by more than 5 hours.

During the journey, which involved hiking through thunderstorms, steep ascents, massively muddy sections, and legit rock climbing, Godesky averaged 55 miles a day, sleeping no more than 18 hours total. A core crew of 12 friends and family members helped her along the way, providing support on the trail—and even ferrying her Taco Bell during the final push. We chatted with the 33-year-old Charlottesville, Virginia-based athlete to learn more about her prep for the epic feat, the quesadilla-fueled journey itself and where she goes from here.

Runner’s World: You’re a professional triathlete, so you’re obviously a very athletic person. Yet most triathletes don’t dabble in extreme endurance thru-hiking. What inspired you to take on this challenge?

Alyssa Godesky: Endurance sports started for me with ultrarunning, so I always knew that 1) my heart was on the trails and 2) that was really a massive strength of mine. So this year, as I finished my 30th Ironman, I wasn’t over it by any means, but I was just ready to spice things up. The Long Trail is something that had been sitting in the back of my head since I saw Finding Traction where Nikki [Kimball, ultrarunning great] set the women’s record [in 2012]. It was something I could not shake, and it finally hit me: why wait any longer when that fell into exactly what I thought my skillset was.

RW: And what exactly is that skillset?

AG: I can put up with a lot of things for a really long time. I don’t know if it’s a pain tolerance thing; I think it’s a willingness to just exist in a very uncomfortable space. Also, just genetically, my body is built that it holds up well. I’m not the fastest athlete, but I can run 9- or 10-minute miles for days and days.

Alyssa Godesky 

Michele Landry

RW: How did you prepare yourself for the Vermont Long Trail?

AG: I did a lot of things that most people consider really boring. I would go to a ski slope and hike up and down it with a weight vest for six hours, and then I’d run in the evening, and then I’d get up and do that exact same thing the next day.

I also just really tried to shift my mindset. A lot of times when I’m training for Ironmans, I do my training and then sit with my feet up. But in training for the Long Trail, I really had to embrace any time I could get on my feet—walking my dog, going grocery shopping. That mindset shift was just so important because that was so much of what those five days [on the trail] were about—just keeping moving.

“Once you finish, you have to still hike about 4 miles out.”

RW: You’ve completed a lot of seriously challenging races throughout your career—to date, more than 30 Ironmans, and more than 50 marathons and ultras. How did the Vermont Long Trail compare to these previous experiences?

AG: In those other races, you know that in about a day or less, it will be over. This was very different. I would sleep several nights in a row on the trail and still feel like the finish was really far away. It was hard to just be patient and stick with the plan. In previous races, I’ve certainly pushed myself as hard as I thought I could go in that moment, but this really drew on every bit of physical and mental strength that I could find, and honestly it dipped below that. Luckily, I had all of my close friends and family there to help refill that for me when I needed it.

RW: Speaking of refilling, I understand you ate a Taco Bell quesadilla on the trail the night before you broke the record, which is both amazing and unconventional for a pro athlete. Tell me more about that.

AG: Beforehand, my crew had me brainstorm food that I love to eat pretty much under any circumstance. I talked about how much I love Taco Bell quesadillas—it’s one of those things, if you put it in front of me, I will eat it. So in that last section, when I had about 50K to go and wasn’t doing well, my friends bought the quesadilla and hiked in almost 20 miles to get it to me. I remember coming upon them in the woods, and I was just so excited. I ate it right away and of course it went down super easy.

After, I’d have nightmares where I would wake up panicked, thinking I was still on the trail.”

RW: That’s true friendship. Let’s talk about your finish—what were you thinking and feeling in that moment when you realized you broke the record?

AG: It still feels unreal, and it’s still something I’m processing. In endurance sports, you always find out that the finish line isn’t the reason you do it. This experience magnified that for me. Getting to the finish was amazing and it was unreal, but everything that came before it, and having my friends and family there through the whole process, was way more meaningful.

Also one thing about the Long Trail is that once you finish, you have to still hike about 4 miles out, and it’s not smooth terrain. Those four miles took us more than four hours! I was afraid to really celebrate before then. When they finally got me out, which was quite a chore, that’s when we could really celebrate.

Vermont Long Trail

Hillary Biscay

RW: Once you finally made it down, what was your recovery process like?

AG: I expected to sleep for a week. But it was like having the worst jet lag of my life. I couldn’t sleep more than two hours at a time. I was waking up because I was in so much pain with my toes individually swelling, and I was also having nightmares where I would wake up panicked and crying, thinking I was still on the trail. They were full-on hallucinations. It was just wild because I loved the experience, for the most part, while it was happening in real life—I think the nightmares were my stress hormones at play. It took about two months before my sleep was back to normal.

RW: What’s up next for you? Would you ever do another thru-hike?

AG: Definitely. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and comfort with the wilderness to take on something self-supported. I would like to do the Long Trail self-supported at some point. I have also been very inspired by women who have taken on the Barkley Marathon in past years. I would love it if I could find my way into that race.


Will Luppino

RW: What do you like to do when you’re not training?

AG: Play with my dog, Ramona, a rescue mix. She ran more than 150 miles with me while I was training for the Long Trail. I love being outside and coaching other athletes—mostly triathletes and a handful of ultrarunners. I’m also the co-host of the IronWomen Podcast, a weekly podcast where we chat with professional female athletes.

Content has been edited for clarity and length.