'I Can Run ... A Long Time'

Federal Hill Ultramarathoner One Of 14 Marylanders In Ironman World Championship

November 04, 2009|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,Candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Whenever Alyssa Godesky needs a break from the rigors of running 50- and 100-mile ultramarathons, she kicks back with five hours of pedaling, swimming and a mere sprint of 13 miles.

Just kidding.

But it's safe to say that Godesky, a Federal Hill resident, likes challenges that take awhile to play out - no instant gratification for her. That's why she'll travel to Clearwater, Fla., next week to compete in the annual Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3, her first.

"I enjoy covering a lot of miles," she says, smiling. "My love is ultramarathons. The triathlons are great for training. They break up the monotony."

The championship is a half-triathlon consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run that add up to 70.3 miles. More than 1,800 competitors qualified for the world championship at one of the 31 Ironman 70.3 events held around the world.

Godesky, who qualified in June at the EagleMan Ironman in Cambridge, won't be Maryland's only representative. Thirteen other competitors - nine of them first-timers - will make the trip: a soldier, two teachers, a lawyer and a flight attendant among them.

"I've learned to make the most of my week," says Kevin Kendro, 30, the athletic director at Frederick County's Urbana High. "I plan out the week on Sunday evenings. I want to avoid junk miles, so I have a specific plan for each workout. If I have 90 minutes between the end of school and the start of a soccer or football game, I'm going to make the best use of that 90 minutes."

It's the same physical stamina and meticulous planning that allowed Kendro, one of the state's youngest athletic directors, to donate a kidney to his father in 2007 and miss just eight days of work.

"I feel great," says Kendro, who played baseball at Thomas Johnson High in Frederick and Shepherd University in West Virginia. "It didn't affect me at all. I've lost 40 to 45 pounds since my high school playing days. If anything, I feel stronger."

Godesky, 24, a standout in soccer, lacrosse and tennis at Archbishop Spalding and a graduate of the University of Virginia, applies a similar work ethic.

She trains with a Baltimore group, Team That's What She Said, sponsored by Falls Road Running Store. She wakes before dawn to get in her swimming laps, and sandwiches runs and bike rides between coaching stints with the Crofton-based Integrity Lacrosse youth program.

"My social life is my training life," says Godesky, who's an assistant branch manager at M&T Bank in Odenton.

A competitive runner as a youngster who entered local events with her dad, Godesky stuck her toe into long-distance events four years ago at the JFK 50-miler, the country's oldest ultramarathon, which uses the Appalachian Trail and C&O Canal towpath as its route.

"I wasn't trained properly. My goal was to get to the end," she says, laughing easily at the memory. "The runners were fun. I knew I wanted to hang out with those people."

On June 13, she took first place in the women's 20-24 division of the EagleMan Ironman 70.3 with a time of 5 hours, 19 minutes, 10 seconds. Two weeks later, she battled triple-digit temperatures during the Western States Endurance Run in California, crossing the finish line in 28 hours, 9 minutes, 30 seconds.

The Western States race follows trails used by the gold and silver miners of the 1850s, climbing more than 15,000 feet and descending nearly 23,000. The race begins at 5 a.m., and runners must finish before 11 a.m. the next day.

"The sun went down and came back up and I kept moving," she recalls. "My legs will never hurt as much as at Western States."

In last year's Ironman world championship, the winner of the professional division, triathlete Terenzo Bozzone of New Zealand, finished in 3:40:10. The top professional female finisher, Joanna Zeiger, who earned her doctorate in genetic epidemiology from Johns Hopkins, finished in 4:02:49. The 2009 event will offer a professional prize purse totaling $100,000 on Nov. 14.

Kendro is hoping for a time of 4:20. Godesky would like to break her Cambridge mark. "I don't like to run fast. I like an eight- to nine-minute mile. But I can run like that for a long time," she says.

When Godesky returns to Maryland, she'll have one more race - the JFK 50-miler - this year. She'll start next season in March with Three Days of Syllamo, a 150-kilometer stage race through the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. In June, it's the Old Dominion, a 100-miler in Virginia. Then there's a full triathlon, Ironman Wisconsin, in September.

"Obviously, there are days when I'd rather not get out of bed and do a run. I'm human," she says. "But once you know your body can do 100 miles, you know you can do anything."

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