For the average person spending time in Hawaii, a typical schedule might include a relaxing swim in the island waters or perhaps a run on the beach — maybe even a bike ride through the scenery.
Alyssa Godesky isn't average.
She participated Saturday in the 34th Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The race includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, capped off with a 26.2-mile run.
The Baltimore native came in 969th place in her age group (25th in her division) with a time of 11 hours, 6 minutes, 8 seconds. She finished the swim in 1:08:37, the bike ride in 5:48:05 and the run in 4:02:45.
Yet her participation in her first world championship is not the peak. Rather, it is one of the steppingstones she has worked toward over the past three years to achieving a bigger goal: becoming a professional triathlete.
"I feel like I'm so close," Godesky said. "I want to show myself that I can compete at that level."
Three years ago the Archbishop Spalding graduate, who started out running ultramarathons, began experimenting with triathlons and Ironman races, entering two in 2009 and two more in 2010. But she quickly realized she could not do it alone. She was going to need a coach — one like Hillary Biscay.
Biscay is one of the top professional triathletes in the country, having competed in more than 50 Ironman competitions and setting records along the way. Outside of competing, Biscay also offers coaching to a "select group" of athletes.
The fact that Godesky, 27, was inexperienced in the triathlon circuit did not factor into Biscay's decision to take her on as an athlete in the fall of 2010.
"It didn't really matter her talent level; I knew she had the mental fortitude," Biscay said. "When I saw [Alyssa's] resume, I thought, 'Yep, sign me up for this job.'"
Godesky, who lives in Baltimore, and the Tucson, Ariz.-based Biscay have been in constant contact via texts, phone calls and email over the past two years. Biscay sends workouts and Godesky posts her results to be critiqued.
"She's highly coachable," said Biscay, who has competed five times in Hawaii. "More so than any of my other athletes."
Armed with a coach, Godesky improved greatly, leading to a series of breakthroughs, including her qualification for Saturday's world championships.
After a disappointing finish at the Ironman in Louisville, Ky., in August 2011 — she finished 17th in her age group after a bad marathon leg — Godesky found herself in sixth heading into the final leg at the Ironman in Arizona with a qualifying spot on the line.
"I had the run of my life," Godesky said. "I slowly started chipping away and it was one of those magical moments when everything comes together."
Her run earned her a second-place finish and a spot in Hawaii — just another step toward her future. Biscay and Godesky have laid out a long-term plan for her to turn professional in 2014.
Technically, Godesky could make the jump to the professional or an "elite" rank now based on her number of podium finishes. But the pair decided it was best to wait a little longer before taking the next step.
"Looking at the progress I have made in the last 18 months, jumping into it now is not necessarily something her or I am looking to do," Godesky said. "I have definitely learned that having patience in this sport is a huge asset, so taking another year to work on my weaknesses and get used to racing more and just preparing myself better to race as a professional is the way we decided to go."
Godesky's training has had its high and lows, including the stress of balancing rigorous workouts with a full-time job. She was hit by a car in July while training on her bike for Hawaii, suffering minor injuries.
Nevertheless, she has overcome setbacks and her professional prospects look promising to those around her.
"I think she can absolutely do well in this," said Biscay, who followed a similar path from amateur to professional. "It's not all about the raw talent; it's about all the other things."
"She has all the pieces," said Godesky's roommate, Carly Page, who likes to send pictures of Godesky's cat, Amelia, to her owner before big races.
With Godesky's good looks, "goofy" personality and potential as a triathlete, Biscay calls her the "complete package," in terms of appeal for sponsors — a critical component to making a living as a triathlete.
Her approachability also sets her apart. She connects with fans through the blog she started in 2008 to help answer the flood of questions people would ask her about running ultramarathons and to document her travels.
"It became clear to me that there were two kinds of professionals. … There's the athletes that are going to win the world championships … and they can count on that prize money and sponsor support," Godesky said. "And I think there's another breed of people who may not ever win, but they are there competing … and because of that, those people are more relatable to the masses and I consider myself in that population."
Seeing Godesky on the brink of becoming a professional athlete seems unfathomable when you consider that she acknowledges falling into endurance sports "accidentally" in college.
Back then she was simply trying to join the marathon team at the Naval Academy. But that required a tryout, and the only opportunity would be in the JFK 50-mile run, a race she would run on virtually no training.
Now her life revolves around training and getting ready for the next demanding race, all for the chance to reach her professional dream, a dream that would have her return to Hawaii for years to come.
"I can only hope," Godesky said with a laugh. "I certainly would not turn down a Hawaii trip every year."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun