Finding My Nerve

Photo: Kaori Photo

After my last blog post, I realized that I was super far ahead of myself in terms of where I normally am mentally, pre-ironman. The truth is, that after the double, I was feeling really fit. It’s hard to pull something like that off and *not* feel pretty darn fit. I felt so good, I actually had tried to hop into IM Mount Tremblant at the end of August. However, I e-mailed for entry on 8/1….7/31 was the deadline. Womp womp. But that left me plenty of time to fine tune things for Wisconsin.

It’s not to say the last 5 weeks haven’t had typical pre-IM freakouts. I still massively failed some workouts and came to the delusional conclusion that l clearly had just gone to bed one night fit, and woke up with my triathlon abilities vanished. Seems logical, right?

But, generally, I have been fit and ready. Though I recognize that the fitness piece is only part of the puzzle. And with the Olympics having come and gone recently, and Kona on the horizon, I have all around me inspiration from the best of the best. I am left with time to think about what it is exactly that makes the great moments. The great races. The days where things come together and you get your day. What do you do to get there?

Hillary recently wrote a few thoughts about this here. These qualities of our Team HPB Kona qualifiers are present in them day after day. So I asked myself if I was going to add to that list, what would it be?

I began to think about racing in itself. Each of our Kona qualifiers – actually, beyond them, all of our athletes who have had a heck of a day racing this year where things just come together, Kona or no Kona….beyond that, on the days when I’ve had great races……what happened? What separated that day from the others. What made that day great, while others only good?

This article by Mara Abbott on her race in Rio is fantastic. One part stuck out to me:

Would you rather have some excuse or rationale for a race outcome: Sick last week, got a flat tire, missed a feed, had to sneeze when the winning attack went, or even just that you lost your nerve that day when it got really hard (yes, this happens). With that, you can forever clasp onto the worrystone-mantra of “I could have won, if only…?”

Or, would you rather honestly know you had ridden a race to the very best of your strength and ability, know there was nothing else you could have done and have that be…not…quite…enough?


She writes honestly about so many parts of being an athlete in this article, but I came back several times to the part where she says that sometimes, in a race, you could just lose your nerve that day when it got really hard. It’s not that you couldn’t have done it, or that you weren’t fit enough. Or that you didn’t even recognize the moment it happened. But, you couldn’t capitalize on it. You couldn’t jump: You lost your nerve.

Those races where we lose our nerve happen to any athlete who has raced for awhile, and I would say those are probably some of the races that haunt us the most. But her putting into words that this is an actual thing, made me pause and think.

Because the #6 thing that could be on Hillary’s list, is that these athletes, at some point or another in a race, didn’t lose their nerve. They held steady. Or maybe they went harder. Or maybe keeping their nerve that day meant just not quitting.

As I’m finishing up my third pro season, I have a pretty good sense of what losing your nerve in a pro race looks like. And, where that lands you. I also have a pretty good sense that I’m getting to a time where I’m closer to a race where losing my nerve will cost me more places, potential sponsors, and prize money, than ever before.

So, a lot of people ask what the heck I do all week when I’m out in Madison a week early. I am swimming, biking, and running the course. And, I’m finding my nerve.

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *