With at least 48 mountains in New Hampshire whose peaks are surveyed to be over 4,000 feet, it isn’t a surprise that having the Fastest Known Time of running all of these would entice an ultra runner. The tallest and most famous is Mount Washington with a summit at 6,288 feet. The 4,000 Footers sit in multiple mountain ranges, but mostly in the White Mountain National Forest. In July 2022, Spring Team Athlete Alyssa Godesky made a go for the FKT!
Alyssa's first trail race ever was an ultramarathon. While attending the US Naval Academy, and wanting to join the official Marathon Team, she used the local JFK 50 miler as “tryouts.” With only 3 weeks to prepare, her longest run was only 16 miles. She finished the race, loved it and as they say - the rest was history.
Alyssa was drawn to breaking and setting FKTs after watching Niki Kimball’s Netflix documentary “Finding Traction” about her FKT on the 273 mile Long Trail in Vermont. To Alyssa, it seemed like the effort came down to more than just speed or ability, but a combination of solid preparation, mental toughness, and the ability to handle sleep deprivation. “I love the challenge of trying to balance all of those and come out on top.” In 2018, Alyssa broke Niki’s Long Trail record for the Women’s Supported division then headed straight to Adirondack and earned the Women’s Supported FKT for the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks. Two years after that, this year, Alyssa decided to go for the New Hampshire 48 High Peaks.
There are major differences between running ultra races and setting Fastest Known Time records. In a race, you have a set start and end time on a predetermined, marked course, competing against other runners next to you. With an FKT attempt, it will more than likely be a solo effort with you against the clock racing the previous fastest time that has been set. You choose your start day and time, the style you race with, and sometimes you might even get a route choice as well. There are a lot of freedoms that come with FKTs, but as they have evolved, now carry a heavy responsibility to track what you do with GPS units, pictures, and trip reports.
The New Hampshire 4000 Footers first became popular with hikers to see how fast one could summit all the peaks. With a “Supported” effort, a hiker or runner can use a car to travel to the different trailheads and have pacers accompany them. You are able to choose your own route and order of peaks, as long as you start and end at an official trailhead. Alyssa’s route ended up being 168 miles with 68,000 feet of vertical gain.
Alyssa recalls, "I knew these peaks and the FKT existed, but it wasn’t until after I earned the Female Supported FKT on the Adirondack High Peaks that I began to truly think about it. If you stand on Camel’s Hump on the Long Trail in Vermont and look west, you can see the high peaks of the Adirondacks. If you look east, you see the high peaks of the White Mountains. I began to wonder if it would be possible for me to hold the Supported Women’s FKTs for all three routes simultaneously.”
The goal for this Fastest Known Time was to target the overall time from the previous year, which was done during hurricane conditions. Alyssa analyzed times from both women and men and she developed her plan, which included her sleep strategy. Her training prior to the attempt was challenging, as she developed cellulitis after the Barkley Marathons in March. She worked closely with her coach, Hillary Biscay, which included a lot of treadmill running, speedwork and running back to back 50ks on the weekends. Her last three weeks of training included mountain running, scouting the routes for the FKT and increasing vert on training runs.
With the “supported” attempt, Alyssa was able to have multiple pacers, who held her hydration and nutrition, kept her motivated, and took care of all her needs. She had a total of 14 people in her crew, whose tasks were planned out weeks in advance. Additional logistics included driving routes, cars, food for herself and the crew, and places to sleep. In the end, the puzzle pieces all came together for one epic adventure.
Hydration and fuel comprise another key element that must be followed during such a long endeavor. Alyssa’s goal was to consume 250 calories and 16 oz of water per hour, along with listening to her body to adjust when needed. Her go-to nutrition on the trails were the Spring Awesome Sauce and Speednut, incorporated with the Spring drink mixes. Off the trail during breaks between segments, she ate heavier meals with more calories such as ramen or chicken nuggets.
photo by Bob Whitaker
Alyssa completed her challenge and set the new Fastest Known Time on the New Hampshire 4000 Footers in 3 days, 56 minutes and 30 seconds. Her biggest takeaway on breaking the previous record was in her preparation and planning prior to the attempt for not just herself, but also her crew. “There is a lot more than speed that goes into a multi day effort, and the only way to find out if your strength is in the realm is to go for it!”
Congratulations Alyssa on all of your FKTs that you have attempted, broken, and set.
Interview by Spring Energy Team Manager Isabella Janovick