Whatcha Talkin Bout Willis?

Have you ever felt like someone was speaking a foreign language to you… except they weren’t? It’s how I occasionally feel when my husband uses complicated financial terms while talking about his work. Or how some of my ‘newer to church’ friends feel when people there use unfamiliar language, often called “Christianese.” It’s how we sometimes feel when a doctor is describing a prognosis or treatment plan that scientifically goes over our head. And, it’s also how I felt when I started running and had no idea what the heck people were talking about when they used terms like fartlek, pronate, PR, BQ, toe box, and negative split.

I was pretty sure I wanted nothing to do with a fartlek (and still don’t, even though I now know it doesn’t mean anything like the word sounds!). I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be doing any kind of split at my age. And a toe box? Well that sounded either weird or painful. Because I felt like this, I think it would be fun on My Journey to Boston to talk about some of these words. PS – If you have a running question or topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know!

For this blog: What is a negative split?

Technically, a negative split run means that your splits (min./mile) progressively get faster over the course of your run. A perfect negative split run is when each mile is faster than the last. But, most runners consider their run to be a negative split run if overall, they start with a slower pace and finish with a faster pace.

The key to running a negative split is to start the first mile slower than your desired overall pace. If your first miles are too quick, you would have to hit an unrealistic pace during the last miles in order to have a negative split. Those who opt for negative splits patiently run a bit slower for the first third of a run, pick up the pace in the middle, and finish with strength and speed.

Training to run a negative split is very important! You truly have to practice increasing your effort gradually. This technique teaches you patience, which is an essential part of marathon training and racing. It helps build discipline, because everyone’s natural tendency is to go out fast. It takes a lot of self-restraint in a race to allow others to run ahead and not be pulled along with them. To run a negative split you really have to run your own race.

Here are a couple recent examples of my negative split training runs:

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The majority of runners believe that in order to run a PR (Personal Record) pace, in a marathon especially, you have to start slower and finish faster. A negative split works in other distances as well but is often the most apparent in the marathon, where many people are accustomed to ‘hitting the wall’ (we can talk about that term in another post, because I have hit it… and hard). In a marathon for example: Let’s say you’re planning on 10-minute miles for the race. For the first 8-10 miles, you’d go a little slower than this, maybe 15-20 seconds per mile slower. This would give you plenty of time to get into the groove of the long race. Between miles 8 and 20, you’d cruise at your goal pace of 10-minute miles. For the last six miles, you’d pick up the pace and finish strong.

The reason negative splits work is because it can take your body several miles to get warmed up. After that, your muscles are charged, your joints lubricated, and mood-boosting endorphins flood your system. You’ll often find yourself running faster without feeling any more effort. Starting slow also allows the runner’s body to compensate for the lactic acid that is produced as a by-product of exerting oneself and the low oxygen levels from the exertion. The runners that start out too fast build up more lactic acid faster and that causes them to slow down, even though they don’t want to, because their bodies can’t process the lactic acid fast enough.

Typically, runners who set out too fast, are trying to ‘bank’ time—a strategy many use to give themselves a cushion at the end of a race. It’s risky business, and one that positions you to crash and burn in later miles, having used up all of your available energy stores.

I have run races with no pace goal nor strategy whatsoever. I have run races by starting quicker than I trained for, trying to bank time, only to peter out in the second half (Philly 2013), causing a ‘positive split’ run. And, last year, my BQ and PR (Boston Qualifying and Personal Record) marathon, I stayed a bit ahead of a pacer (a person running the marathon at a certain pace to help runners finish within a specific time) and I did a negative split run. As you can see in the pictures below, my first half for both years 2013 and 2014 were 1:52:37 and 1:52:35 respectively. My second halves are where you find the difference. In 2013 my second half was significantly slower at 2:04:19. In 2014, my second half was two minutes quicker than my first, at 1:50:34. This has a good bit to do with pacing, but also with hydration and nutrition (which we’ll talk about in a future blog).

          Philly 2013 – Positive split                             Philly 2014 – BQ – Negative split

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Where I do NOT want a negative split is in my fundraising :)!!! And, because you have all been so supportive and generous, I won’t! With $8,865 already raised in just 29 days and 57 days left until my birthday deadline of Jan. 16th to raise the remaining $1,135, I see a positive split in this fundraising race’s future! Thank you!!

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Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte

Am I a Helper?

I went into Friday morning with my focus on hitting the $7,000 raised mark over the weekend. Then the news about Paris rocked our world and I couldn’t think about anything except praying for the people of Paris, for our nation’s leaders, for service men and women, for all of those enduring tremendous suffering around our world, and for my own heart’s anger and attitude.

One of the initial things that struck me on Friday was this Mr. Rogers quote:


My first thought was, “I want to be this kind of mom, who sets a positive example by pointing her kids in the right direction.” I immediately followed that thought by asking myself, “Am I a helper?” I don’t want to just find those who are helping, I want to be one!

It wasn’t long after that when an anonymous donor included the following verse in their comment:

Matthew 25:35-36, 40, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

I can tell you this with 100% certainty… I didn’t fully realize how much this journey would teach me.

Next thing I knew, we were hitting the $8,000 mark. Crazy, right?! In just 24 days. Tragic events and messages conveyed by anonymous donors challenged me to refocus and ask myself some hard questions and God provided beyond my wildest dreams.


Thank you for being a part of this journey and lesson with me!

What do you HOPE for?

The word HOPE can conjure up a million different thoughts and feelings for each of us. Hope is defined as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. For an entire year after qualifying for Boston, I hoped. I expected. I anticipated. Everyday. If this video doesn’t inspire you to be your best, reach for greatness, and attain a goal… I’m not sure what will.

For a brief time that hope was stripped away. But, thanks to Team in Training and so many supporters, my hope is restored. It’s a broader hope. And, it’s stronger than ever!

Something else I hope for? A world without cancer. My role with Team in Training is to raise funds and awareness to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. Cancer affects everyone in one way or another. Cancer sucks. And my hope is that we find cures for all cancer. In the meantime, I also hope we provide families that are fighting and struggling with the resources they need to get through their battle with HOPE.

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Since we are approaching the gift-giving season, Pink Moonlight Designs has joined with Team Alyssa to offer HOPE ornaments, the proceeds of which will benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Everyone could use a handcrafted ornament for a gift exchange, present topper, for staff gifts, or for the person who has everything and would love a unique, meaningful gift! Contact me directly at adourte@outlook.com to place your order. Ornaments are $10, cash or check. Quantities are limited. Thanks in advance for supporting a great cause!

Two ornaments

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte


The Good News… My Personal Connection to Cancer and LLS

By Kristin Rubino

After three months of ER visits and testing, the doctor finally called with a diagnosis… “The bad news is you have cancer, but the good news is you have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is slow growing and very treatable.”

Not the words I ever wanted to hear, especially about my larger than life father. My dad, Joe Staudt, is the standard by which all the guys in our family are measured. Through the eyes of his daughters, there was nothing he couldn’t do. My dad was tough but fair, intelligent yet approachable, hard working business owner yet always had time for his family, for coaching, for school projects, for a catch in the back yard, or to shoot hoops in the driveway. That was my favorite thing to do with my dad growing up… he was my favorite rebounder! My dad could fix any problem, cook dinner, paint nails, run a successful business for 30 years, employing 15 people (he gave us all our first job), teach us to ride a bike, throw a ball, and drive a car… you name it, he could do it! As I became an adult and a parent myself, I came to appreciate even more the type of person and father that he was. He was tireless in everything he did, sacrificial with his time and money, and had a true servant’s heart that was completely committed to his Christian faith and Jesus. Joe Staudt was the most well rounded, coolest dad, and greatest Granddad, who was the rock of our family and it was a privilege to be his daughter.

Kristin family                         Joe with Kids in LRoom

                   The Staudt Family                                                   Joe with two of his granddaughters

My dad was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in March of 2006, the same week that I gave birth to my second daughter, Emma. We were in the same hospital at the same time. After exhausting every possible treatment in medicine at that time, my dad’s last hope for a cure was a stem cell transplant. He had an incredible doctor at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and I was able to be his stem cell donor. The stem cell transplant bought my dad an extra year, but ultimately did not cure him. Experimental treatments were tried, radiation to the tumor was used, every resource available at the time was considered for his treatment, until his final visit with his oncologist when he said, “I’m sorry Joe! I have one more thing we can try, but I don’t think it will work. You have 1-2 months left to live.” That was the Monday of Thanksgiving in 2008. Joe went to church for the last time on Thanksgiving Eve and sat in a wheelchair with his family. The last song he sang in church was:

In All Things We Give You Thanks,

We Give You Praise and Thanksgiving

At All Times In Everything We Give You Thanks.

My dad was thankful for his experience with cancer because he leaned on Jesus the entire time. My dad said he had never felt at peace as much as the way he did during his battle with cancer. Joe knew the good news and the ultimate prize that awaited him… he was loved by the Creator of the Universe and my dad knew that when his earthly fight was over, he would get to rest in the arms of that Creator. The last month of my dad’s life was very difficult. He declined quickly. Watching a loved one dying is heart wrenching and life changing, but I will never forget the peaceful look in my dad’s blue eyes (they were green before his transplant and turned blue from my genes), as he laid in the hospital bed in his living room. He knew that soon he would take his last breathe on earth and be in the presence of Jesus. Joe passed away on Christmas morning, 2008. Watching a Christian pass away is ultimately a beautiful experience!

Mary and Joe              Kristin at grave

6 weeks before Joe passed away                    Joseph J. Staudt, 8.5.49 – 12.25.08

All during his time of treatment, my dad was supported unconditionally by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. He received the patient financial aid that the organization offers to help with co-pays, hospital parking expenses, and prescription reimbursements. The staff of LLS showed compassion above and beyond what was expected. They cried when they saw my dad suffering and they rejoiced in any bit of good news he got along the way. My dad walked in the Light the Night walk two months before he died and was treated like a rock star. My dad fought the good fight. The story didn’t end as those left behind would have liked, but the world was blessed with 59 years of Joe Staudt. He has grandchildren who never met him, yet talk about him and recognize his pictures as if they had. His presence, Christian influence, support, and words of encouragement are missed tremendously on a daily basis. What I miss most though is that I cannot remember his voice. Cancer took away our rock. It erased the sound of his voice and left an enormous hole in my heart, and in those of his loved ones.

Joe LTN walk

Joe’s final Light the Night Walk, Oct. 2008

Don’t let this continue to happen! Don’t let cancer rock the world of others! Join Team Alyssa and fight with us! We cannot stop until the medical field can say 100% of the time that although you have cancer… The GOOD NEWS is we have a cure!

A Note From Alyssa:

Thank you Kristin for publicly sharing your story, even though it was tremendously difficult. Thank you for opening up your heart to us. Thank you for your incredible example of dedication to the legacy of your dad. Thank you for letting me take this journey, of making something good come from tragedy, with you.

Please make a donation in support of my efforts, in memory of Joe Staudt, to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte

The Number FOUR!

Ironically, FOUR years ago today, Nov. 5, 2011, I ran my very first half marathon. And, today, Nov. 5th 2015, we topped the FOUR thousand dollar mark for the Boston Marathon LLS Team in Training!!!

Four years ago I drove by myself in the very early, very dark, and very cold hours of the morning to Paradise, PA to run my first half marathon.

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If you judged my running future based on how I felt that day or if I enjoyed that race, you’d have guessed that it was basically done. It was a frigid 27 degrees with windchill. The race was supposed to have “rolling hills”, which to me at the time were actually more like continuous large mountains. The roads were littered with mounds of horse poop leaving the runners to dodge the piles. Due to the cold temperatures, the roads near any water stations were a sheet of ice that we had to walk or navigate around. There were very few spectators cheering or providing any moral support. Most of the limited number of runners were serious and immediately paced out ahead of me leaving me at the back of the pack. The roads weren’t even closed off to vehicles, so we frequently had to navigate to one side to allow a car (or horse and buggy) to pass and to avoid getting hit by a large delivery truck. The scenery consisted of farm, after field, after corn patch, after farm… which would be beautiful to drive through… but not the most motivating or stimulating for a runner. And, the course was a 2-loop course which meant we had to repeat exactly what we had just done after the first 6 1/2 miles. By mile 7 I was promising myself that I would never make myself do this again. Ever. Ever. Ever. For the next 6.1 miles I asked myself why the heck I had paid to run this race when I could have easily just run 13.1 miles at home. But, I finished! And, I was happy to see Ben, Jake, and Luke cheering for me and to have a hot drink and a piece of pizza :)!


Amish Country Half, Nov. 5, 2011

Surprisingly enough, 6 months later I was running another half marathon in Washington D.C. with my friend Kristin, even with my bum hip. And, I loved it! And, 6 months after that I was running my first full and favorite marathon in Philly 2012.

Four years ago, I never would have predicted what running has become in my life! Four years ago, if you told me that on this day, four years later, I would reach the four thousand dollar mark of my goal for LLS’s Boston Team in Training, I would have laughed at you. Honestly, I would have. But, WE DID! Just two weeks after being asked to join the team, we topped $4,000!

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What a difference FOUR little years make!

Lesson: Don’t let your first experience write the rest of your story!

No Girls Allowed!!

Did you know that in 1972, just 3 years before I was born, the Boston marathon became the first marathon competition to allow women to enter; the distance was previously considered too grueling. In 1984, the Olympics opened the marathon competition to women. 1984! I was in elementary school before the Olympics finally allowed women to compete in the marathon distance!

But even before the Boston marathon officially allowed women to race, there were a few daring females who snuck in. In 1966, Roberta Gibb cleverly hid in the bushes until about half of the racers had passed her by. Then she quickly jumped in, ran the course, and finished in 3 hours, 21 minutes, 40 seconds (albeit unofficially). Inspired By Gibb, the following year Katherine Switzer applied under her initials, K.V. Switzer, and was accepted. About four miles into the race, officials noticed “K. Switzer” was actually a girl and tried to boot her from the run. Switzer’s boyfriend shoved the official away, allowing her to finish the course in about 4 hours, 20 minutes. (I don’t know about you, but I would like to give her boyfriend, Tom Miller, a big high five!!)


K.V. Switzer, 1967

Flash forward to 2013… Despite several cancellations due to weather and the Boston Marathon terror attack, 2013 was a record year for the marathon 26.2 mile distance with more than 1,100 marathons run across the country generating 541,000 finishers with a breakdown of 57% men (308,400, all-time high) and 43% women (232,600, a new high overall and percent) and 47% Masters – 40 and older (254,300, also a new high overall and percent). (Let’s be very clear! As of 2013, I did NOT yet fall into the Masters category! Although, I proudly claim it as of 2015 :)!)

Let that sink in… Just 41 years prior (basically my lifetime), it was “No girls allowed!” Just 29 years prior, women weren’t allowed to compete in the Olympics at the marathon distance. And yet, as of 2013 nearly half of marathon finishers in the U.S. alone were women!

Too grueling for us?! I think not.

Would you join our team?

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte




Every 3 minutes…

Did you know that approximately every 3 minutes one person in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer? By the time you read this post, 2 more families will be affected. Worlds rocked. Lives changed. It can happen to anyone at anytime. But, HOPE can be restored because of access to treatments and research to find a cure. This is exactly why I am running on Boston’s Team in Training for LLS. This is why I’m asking you to join our team!

Team Alyssa Update:

I went public with my news about being asked to join Boston’s Team in Training for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society just 3 days ago and we are already 35% of the way to our $10,000 goal! There is still a long way to go and we are certainly hoping a lot more people join Team Alyssa in fighting cancer one mile at a time, but I am personally so thankful to each and every one of you who has offered an encouraging word, helped with fundraising ideas and efforts, and of course provided financial support!!

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  • We currently have 6 Platinum+ Level supporters who will have their name, an “in memory of” name, or a company logo displayed on the “Team Alyssa” t-shirts which will be sold as a fundraiser. We are looking for any additional local businesses who would like to support LLS and be represented in this way. Let me know if you are interested!
  • We currently have 15 Gold+ Level supporters whose names will all be on the shirt that I wear to run the Boston marathon.
  • We currently have 58 people in our Team Alyssa Facebook group who are all supporting and encouraging.
  • We are working on some really fun and exciting fundraising ideas!! Stay tuned! And, let me know if you have an idea!
  • And… today, Team Alyssa moved into the #5 spot for Top Fundraisers on the Boston Team in Training team, with $3,504.40 going to raise funds and awareness to help find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients! You guys rock! Way to go!

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Please continue to follow My Journey to Boston at http://www.alyssadourte.com.

Please join our team! We need your help to reach our goal of $10,000 raised by my birthday, January 16th! It takes more than one person to make up a team and that’s why I’m asking you to join me, so together we can fight cancer one mile at a time!  Would you please:

  • Star: Give a $3 Starbucks/week toward LLS through Jan. 16th$42
  • Super: Sponsor me at $2/mile for the 26.2 mile Boston marathon – $54.40
  • Silver: Sponsor me at 10 cents/mile for every training mile I’ll log  – $80
  • Gold: Sign your name on the shirt I’ll wear to run in Boston – $100+
  • Platinum: Team Alyssa t-shirt sponsor- have your name/ logo on it – $250+ (Team Alyssa t-shirts will be sold as a fundraiser and worn by friends and family attending the Boston marathon.)
  • Titanium: Sign a name on the shirt I’ll wear to run Boston; Have your name/logo on Team Alyssa t-shirts; Have company advertised on Team Alyssa FB page & other social media; Receive a drink on me on April 18th if you’re in Boston! – $500+
  • Elite: All of Titanium; Dinner on me on April 18th if you’re in Boston: REI Duffle Bag with LLS logo and DOUBLE the tax write-off J! – $1,000+
  • Share my story with friends, family, and local businesses!

Your donation will help fund treatments that save lives every day; like immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to kill cancer. You may not know it, but every single donation helps save a life with breakthrough therapies such as these. Patients need these cures and they need your support.

Please make a donation in support of my efforts to run the Boston Marathon with Team In Training and help get us all closer to a world without blood cancers,http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte