That’s a Wrap!

Putting this last blog about My Journey to Boston together has been extremely difficult. Subconsciously (and not so subconsciously) I honestly haven’t wanted to finalize it. I simply don’t want this journey to be over. I know, I know. On to the next one, right? However, the past seven months have been one of the greatest and craziest and scariest and most fulfilling rides ever! To sum up the play-by-play and correlating emotions in one blog would be impossible (although I did try). For that, you’ll have to go back and read the whole story. With this post, I hope to accomplish two things:

  1. First and foremost, I want to thank those that came alongside me, made the finish line possible, and generously gave to help fight cancer.
  2. Second, I want to share my entire Boston Marathon weekend experience with you. (This is entirely too long for a blog post, but I’m going with it anyway.)


First things first… How can I possibly say thank you enough?! I can’t. Plain and simple. But, I will give it my best effort.

  • To my husband and kids, who not only put up with but encouraged me every step of the way through endless hours of Boston & LLS talk, training runs, everything else that goes into preparing for the marathon of your lifetime, the anticipation, the initial disappointment, the applying for Team in Training and then waiting for news, the emotional roller coaster, the fundraising… THANK YOU!
  • To Kristin, who convinced me I should “go for it” and “I could do it” when I brought up possibly applying for LLS’s Boston Team in Training, who poured out her heart story in a blog, who spent countless hours brainstorming, talking her friend off a ledge, encouraging, training quietly alongside me, supporting, helping, surprising, traveling, party planning, communicating with Team Alyssa…THANK YOU!
  • To my parents, sister, and whole extended family, who prayed for and with me, traveled to Boston to support me, donated to LLS, wore their t-shirts, threw encouragement and love at me, and were some of my biggest cheerleaders… THANK YOU!
  • To my college roommates who helped pick me up when I initially “broke up with Boston”, traveled to the Team Alyssa party, came to Boston to cheer for me along the course, sent messages and called… THANK YOU!
  • To all of my friends and those who so generously gave, regularly encouraged, checked-in with me, offered advice, and prayed for me… THANK YOU!

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I have been utterly overwhelmed. This team of people not only rallied by my side, but made additional blood cancer research happen, helped to improve the quality of life of patients and their families, and helped ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. You guys did that!! YOU played a role in positively impacting and changing lives! So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!


My Boston Marathon weekend was absolutely incredible and life-changing! I get emotional each time I let my mind scroll through the film of memories or someone asks me to describe it. I’ll try to recap those 5 days in this all too long blog.

FRIDAY: I traveled to Boston on Friday April 15th to attend a VIP Reception that I was invited to by my LLS Team in Training for raising over $10,000. My initial plan had been to go up to Boston on Sunday and return on Tuesday. Two nights – up and back. But, I felt so privileged to have the opportunity to represent those who inspired that invitation with their generosity, that I changed my plans and headed up early. Kristin drove me. We had a beautiful Friday to make the trip. During the quiet, as I stared out the window, I kept coming back to the fact that it was the 3 year anniversary of the Boston marathon bombings. I had wanted to run Boston before that, but the urge to make it happen after that day grew stronger. I imagined how those affected by the loss of a loved one or limb must be feeling. I knew that some amputees would be making their marathon debut, running in Boston with their blade, and I wondered if I’d have the opportunity to run alongside them.  As we crossed the GB Bridge and I looked at the NY City skyline and saw the Freedom Tower, honoring thousands of lives lost, soaring high into the bright blue sky, I got emotional. I felt angry. But, then I felt strong and empowered. And, I couldn’t wait to get to Boston.

Because we arrived early, we were able to walk the streets to the Hynes Convention Center, where the marathon expo was. The city was in full marathon mode. The street lights were lined with posters, banners were everywhere, storefronts were decorated, blue and gold flowers were planted. Everywhere you looked, Boston was alive for Marathon Monday. The entire city was consumed by it.

At the expo I was able to check-in with my Boston passport and get my race bib. I had to pinch myself. If you’ve never been to a race expo before, let me give you a quick description. Imagine a massive area set up with booths, items for sale, sneakers, running apparel, every GU, sport bean, gel block sample imaginable, seminars on specific topics, etc. You can get in and out with just your bib pick-up or you can literally browse for hours. Once I had my bib (which I guarded with my life), we headed directly to the celebratory jackets. I wanted to try some on and make sure I got “the one” before any sizes were sold out. Success!


We had time for nothing else at the expo, so we grabbed a cab back to The Warehouse for the VIP Reception. It was awesome seeing not one or two or three other people who had raised over $10,000 for the team, but a packed room full of team members! Nearly 40 people on my team raised over $10,000!! The average funds raised per participant this year was the highest it had ever been! The person who raised the most money on the team, raised $40,975, with many close behind in the $20s and $30s. Just amazing! The VIP Reception was a nice time to meet and talk to people on the team, hear their previous Boston stories, their honored hero stories, ask questions, and just relax in preparation for Monday.


Friday night we headed out to Essex, MA to stay at David and Nancy Mering’s house. David and Nancy are long-time friends of my college roommate Jacquie’s, from when she lived in the Boston area. Thank you to them for being such great hosts!! I actually even got a couple hours of sleep Friday night, which is better than my first night away from home often is.

SATURDAY: Saturday was a downtown Boston day from beginning to end. The day consisted of more time at the expo, including getting pictures of my name on the wall of 2016 participants, getting to see U.S. Olympic marathoners Shalane Flanagan and Amy (Hastings) Cragg, and even getting a selfie with Amy in the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel lobby :)! We attended the Team in Training celebratory luncheon with guest speaker Jacqueline Hansen, who was the Boston woman’s winner in 1973 and has coached many elite runners. And, we were also able to watch the official B.A.A. 1 mile race, with the winner coming in at 4:10. We wrapped up the day by checking out the corner of Hereford and Boylston streets, which would be my last turn toward the finish line on Monday (and one of the spots where my family and friends would be waiting to cheer for me), and then we had dinner outside on Boylston Street right next door to where the second bomb had exploded and where 8 year old Martin William Richard had lost his life. The entire day was extremely meaningful.
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Saturday night we headed back out once again to David and Nancy’s in Essex (about a one hour drive). Later that night, my college roommate Jacquie and her kids joined us. After lots of talking about the day behind us and the days to come (plus many other random and intellectually stimulating topics thrown in), I went off to bed. I probably got 4-5 hours of sleep Saturday night, pretty impressive for me for a second night of being away from home.

SUNDAY: Sunday started out with attending a service at Christ’s Church, a traditional Episcopalian, beautiful, old church. Afterwards David and Nancy hosted a luncheon for many of Jacquie’s Boston crew. It was fun to see them all come together to catch up on their lives! Nancy gave a beautiful toast wishing me luck for the next morning.

While all this relaxing, church, luncheon, and toast were happening for us girls, my husband Ben, and Kristin’s husband Mike, along with our five combined children were driving the 6+ hours to join us in Boston. Brave daddies, huh?! My parents and my sister also made their trip up on Sunday to join us. And, my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew made their way to CT, where they would stay until they joined the group in Boston the following morning.

After lunch, Kristin and I headed to our hotel in Framingham, which would be my home for the next two nights. The hotel was chosen because it was a quick 10-15 min. drive to the starting line (and it wasn’t $500+/night like many Boston hotels with jacked up marathon prices). Most runners take buses from downtown Boston on Monday morning out to Athlete’s Village near the starting line. That is part of why Boston has such a late start – the logistics of getting 30,000 runners transported 26 miles outside the city where the race starts. But, I would be getting a ride to a parking lot in Hopkinton and then taking a shuttle bus just 1 mile to Athlete’s Village instead.

After arriving at the hotel and being reunited with our families, we headed out to find our way to the starting line, so that the next morning would be easy-breezy for Kristin to drop me off. We also wanted to get some pictures at the starting line with our families. It was an incredible experience to see yet another town in full marathon mode. Every inch of Hopkinton was decorated for the marathon. Houses, businesses, schools, and churches were all decked out in blue and gold. A police officer was happily stopping traffic so people could take their picture at the starting line. It was energizing (and a little nerve-wracking) to be there!


Dinner was up next. What do I eat the night before a marathon? Usually fish, veggie and a carb-side. So, I ordered salmon, roasted broccoli, and a baked potato. The entire area is so supportive of their runners that as soon as Kristin told our waiter that I was running the marathon the next day, he took my dinner off my check and wrote a ‘good luck’ note to me! How cool is that?!

Before bed Sunday night was the most stressful part of the weekend up to that point. I went back and forth about what to wear the next day. I have never struggled with that. I’ve always worn shorts for a marathon, but because of my recent hip pain (which extends down my leg), I felt like I needed the support of compression pants. But, because of the expected heat, I felt like I needed to wear shorts. I tried on both several times to see how my leg felt. For a 3 or 6 or 10 mile run… no big deal. But, for 26.2, the struggle was real. I ended up going with the compression pants because I felt like I could handle the heat as long as my hip/leg held up. I finally laid out my running clothes, sneakers, breakfast, all necessary items to take to the starting line, pinned on my bib, and of course painted my nails in blue and yellow :)! Thankfully, Ben took the boys to the hotel pool for part of this process so I could have some solitude in my anxiety. Once again, I actually got 4-5 hours of sleep, which is pretty remarkable for me for being in a hotel and for the night before a race.

MONDAY: Monday morning started earlier, but I didn’t get out of bed until 6:15 AM. I laid there for quite awhile living in my thoughts, because I didn’t want to stir and disturb Ben and the boys who were sleeping soundly. But, I became restless and was driving myself crazy with scenarios and questioning my choice of clothes. So, I got up. Normally for a marathon, we have to be up by 5:15 AM the latest because it starts by 7 or 8. Not Boston. It’s a late start marathon, BUT, you have to get to Athlete’s Village early enough before road closures.

The first thing I typically do on a marathon morning is drink my coffee and eat my protein bar and banana. And, while many things about this marathon were very different, that part remained exactly the same. You have to make sure to eat and drink early enough to time your bathroom needs properly before a race :). And then I got dressed, put my hair back in a ponytail and braid, and of course put on some make-up for good measure. The Boston Marathon is on TV after all :). I stretched more because of the hip pain, and took more medicine as well. Alleve, Motrin, and Turmeric Supreme had become fast friends the week before.

By 8:00 AM Kristin was driving me to a parking lot in Hopkinton, where I would pick up a shuttle to take me to Athlete’s Village. I got on a shuttle bus without any wait. Some runners were silent. Some were non-stop chatter. A very nice man joined me in my seat. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk at all, but he began an interesting conversation that prevented me from hearing all the other runner talk that could have messed with my head. He was originally from France, currently lives in Dallas, TX, and was running Boston for the first time as well. It was cool to exchange stories and marathon experiences.

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Upon arriving in Athlete’s Village I immediately got in the porta-potty line. There were so many, but so many more people. The line was long and took quite awhile. It got to be 9:00 AM and the sun was bright and it was already hot. (Hopkinton and most of the course were a good 15+ degrees warmer than Boston itself, which has the water breeze). I still had nearly two hours until I would start. After I made it through the line, I joined my team and began the wait. I knew I probably had to eat and drink a little bit more before the race, given the late start, so I took a few bites of a mini-bagel with peanut butter I’d packed, a couple more bites of banana, and drank a small water. I also popped two more Motrin. It was then time to wait in the porta-potty line again to pee that water out before more waiting in the sun. Sounds like something you want to do, right? Wait to pee, wait to run, wait to pee, wait to run :).

During this time they were calling for waves 1 and 2, people with red and white bibs, faster times, to walk toward the corals. I continued to watch and wait. Soon it would be my turn, wave 3, people with blue bibs. I would leave my team, most of which had yellow bibs, which meant wave 4 and that they were running for a charity. Although I was registered via the charity team, I was able to use my qualifying time for a bib and wave placement. After waiting and thinking and waiting and questioning, I heard the call for people with blue bibs. I left behind my throw away sweatshirt, which I had brought, but of course never needed because it was already hot (they donate all items left to charity). I left behind a portable charger in case my phone needed a boost, my food items, and my throw away sunglasses. And, I began the 0.8 mile walk to the starting line with all the other blue bib runners. On that walk, I stopped for the 3rd and final time to pee before walking my way into the center of Hopkinton. People were already out on their front yards in lawn chairs cheering for us. Before we even started! The air was thick with excitement and anticipation.

The starting line corals for Boston were more organized than any I’d ever experienced. In other words, they actually enforced your starting wave and coral assignment and had fenced off, separated areas for each one. Once I arrived in my coral, it wasn’t long before we were moving forward and I was jogging across the rubber mats that stretched across the start line. These mats, along with many checkpoints along the course pick up the chip on your bib to ensure you are crossing each point (not cheating) and they chart your time at each point.

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Boston Course. Here’s an awesome description of the course,

THE RACE: The crowds were already huge. There was literally packed bleacher seating even at the start and the streets were already lined with people cheering. The race begins downhill. You really have to watch your pace because it’d be easy to get ahead of yourself, which could lead to problems later. I did a really good job of keeping myself right in-line with where I thought a safe, comfortable pace would be, 8:48 min./mile for the first 3.1 miles. During those first few miles we passed a biker bar, which was wall-to-wall bikes and bikers all with drinks in hand at 11:00am, blasting their music and yelling. I smiled at their level of excitement. We passed many families and children outside on their front lawns, already grilling up a storm and looking like they were camped out for an all-day event.

It was hot. The sun was bright. I tried to stay to the side to catch a bit of shade here and there from the trees, but it didn’t come often. I started second guessing my decision to wear pants. But, knew I needed the support, given how my hip/leg already felt. By mile 6, I already knew it was going to be a rough run for me. Usually at mile 6 of a race I feel fantastic. It’s early, but I’ve gotten into my stride. The energy of the crowd is like an adrenaline IV. But, not that Monday. The energy of the crowd was certainly at an all time high, but somebody forgot to connect the adrenaline IV. My legs felt heavy and my skin was so dry. No sweat. None. I was so hot and yet I wasn’t sweating. I felt tired already. And, I was in pain. I told myself, “You can do this. You can do anything for a few hours. It’s going to be hard one, but enjoy this. You have waited so long for this day and it’s here. Don’t let anything get in the way.” I do a lot of positive self-talk, and praying, debating, and calculating in my head when I run. If only I could record the dialogue that goes on and share that :). April 18th required more positive self-talk and prayer than usual.

At mile 6-7, in Framingham, my college roommate was screaming my name. I ran to the side to see her and her kids and I remember telling her that I didn’t feel good. But, I went on my way. And, soon I was taking my first GU. Vanilla Bean is my flavor of choice because it’s not as thick as many others and it has caffeine. This coffee drinker would be a mess if I didn’t have that caffeine.

There was a water and Gatorade station at every single mile in Boston (which is more than a typical race), and I literally took both at most. I never drink Gatorade. Ever. I don’t like it at all. Water is all I’ve ever had in a race, but I knew based on how I was feeling that day that I had to have at least some Gatorade as well if I was going to finish. I was hoping the Gatorade and water would hydrate me and I’d start sweating more and feeling better, but that didn’t happen.

Let me pause to say that although I felt terrible in running terms, I was still making sure to enjoy every single thing along the route. I checked out the smiling faces of kids and made sure to high five as many as possible. I gazed at beautiful, historical buildings. I kept one earbud out almost the entire time to hear all the cheers and sounds. I have never experienced so many volunteers, police officers, spectators, and runners that were so friendly and helpful. I want to pause to say thank you to the runners I heard constantly thanking the police officers and volunteers, saluting and shaking hands with amputee and military runners, stopping to lift and carry so many who were dropping along the course. Thank you to the medics who I saw running to help to the injured. I’m telling you, I got choked up over and over. It gave me a renewed hope in the goodness of people. The whole thing was very surreal. 

Around mile 13 and the half way point, runners pass Wellesley College. The tradition is for all the Wellesley girls to stand along the course with “Kiss Me…” posters. Reading them all as I ran by occupied my mind, helped me forget about the pain, and made me smile. My favorite was, “Kiss me or I’ll vote for Trump.” I laughed out loud and legitimately almost kissed her cheek.

Once the girls no longer littered the sidelines, I knew I was getting close to where my family would be waiting to see me and it helped me make it up a big hill. I climbed that hill looking every person in the eye, trying to find one of their faces in the crowd. And, then I saw them!! Ben and the kids, my parents, my sister, and my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and my adorable nephew. They were all waving and jumping and yelling my name. Tears. Excitement. Relief. I was on the wrong side of the road, thinking they’d be on the left, but, playing frogger, I made it as quickly as possible across to where they were. I gave them sweaty hugs, we took pictures, and I told them how great everything was so far! I think they could tell based on my slowing time and how I looked how I was feeling, but I’m not sure if they knew at that point, just how bad. After stealing a water bottle from them and a few more kisses from my boys, I continued on my way. Somehow my clouded mind had me convinced I just had 9 more miles to go after seeing them, but I soon recalculated and realized I was wrong. It was actually 11. As this realization set in, my family was off and headed to the finish line, where they would once again meet up with me.

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At that point I knew I was headed into the toughest part of the course. Everyone talks about heartbreak hill, but they forget to mention that there are three other BIG hill climbs before you ever even get to heartbreak hill at mile 21. Around mile 17, which includes “Firehouse Hill”, I once again heard my name being screamed louder than the regular spectators were yelling it. (Boston race bibs don’t have names on them, unlike many other races. But, I had my name put on the TNT singlet and so people were yelling “Go Alyssa” all day long. Other runners even commented about wanting to run with me just so they could hear a name yelled. It was such an incredible encouragement!) When I heard my name, it was to the left and behind me. I turned just in time to realize I’d past my college roommate and her kids, who had caught up with me for a second time. I played frogger again, getting over to the left side of the road and ran back to them. I’m guessing most runners thought I was crazy for backtracking :). I told them a few things about the race so far, we took pictures and then I continued on once again, knowing I most likely wouldn’t see another familiar face for the next 9 miles.


By this point of the race I was grabbing any wet towel a spectator was offering. I was taking two waters every time they were available, one to drink and one to pour over my head and wipe my face with, to get the salt off. I could not for the life of me understand why I didn’t seem to be able to keep up my hydration and only in hindsight wonder if it had to do with all the anti-inflammatory meds I was taking to try to mask the hip pain. It was at that point of the race, although it sounds crazy, I literally found myself thinking, “this is actually more pain than 4 hours of pitocin contractions without an epidural was.” Looking back, that’s not actually true. Pitocin, with a fibroid tumor, with no epidural, kicked Boston’s butt even on my worst day. But, I promise you, in that moment, that was how I felt and it was the first time I’d ever dared compare pain to that part of my labor. I prayed that I would just be able to keep myself pulled together enough to enjoy as much as possible before the finish line. What sounds even crazier is that, while I was comparing my pain to non-epidural pitocin contractions and praying that I wouldn’t pass out, I was also thinking about how I didn’t want this experience to end. I’m literally emotional writing this. It was the most opposing feelings I could have felt in that moment and yet at the time, they made sense.

When I made it to the top of heartbreak hill, I just kept telling myself, “you have less than a ‘daily run’ left, less than 6 miles to go. You can do this.” Of course as soon as I would say that, I’d think, “oh no, then it will be over. I don’t want it to be over. But, I actually do. Yeah, I need to see that finish line. But, no….”  Yeah, your mind can get that crazy. That’s also when you pass Boston College. If I thought the crowds were intense before, they were now on steroids at BC. The masses of people, the boys handing out roses, the people screaming my name, the college kids partying, the businesses blasting music. I’m telling you… you have not been to a party until you’ve run Boston, especially around Boston College. It was crazy and awesome and it’s part of what kept me going!

The other things I focused on in those miles that kept me going were my family and friends and wanting to make them proud after all the support they’d given. I thought about every single name and person represented on my TNT singlet and those who were left behind missing many of them. I thought about a saying I’d seen, “Running sucks, but cancer sucks more,” and how much cancer patients have to go through and that this was nothing, anything I was feeling was just temporary. And, I focused on all the good, the excitement, the joy, the millions raised by so many charity teams, and how lucky I was to be in that exact place in that very moment in time.

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That’s when I saw the famous Citgo sign. It’s right in front of you at 40K (24.85 miles) and while it’s just a sign for a gas station, it literally breathed life back into me, released pain, and gave me just enough energy in my legs to muster up that final hill. At mile 24.8 I officially entered Boston and could picture Hereford and Boylston streets. I envisioned myself running up that little incline toward the final turn and seeing my family and Kristin and her family and I just kept picturing that over and over. I could finally feel cooler temperatures and the breeze that comes from being near the water. I pulled out the one earbud that I had in for most of the race so that in the final miles, even music wasn’t a distraction from every experience.

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Just before I turned onto Hereford Street, a Team in Training volunteer took this picture of me. There was a group of TNT volunteers standing on Hereford and when they saw my purple shirt they yelled and cheered and tears filled my eyes. The purpose of my run felt so strong in that moment. I turned to look up the small incline of Hereford street I had recently envisioned myself running and couldn’t believe I was actually there. I stared straight ahead looking to lock eyes with a loved one’s face. I got closer and closer and then there they were, and there was the finish line. I can’t type this without flowing emotions. Even with pain and little energy left, I think I sprinted to them. I hugged Ben and Kristin simultaneously. It was the first time I’d seen her since she dropped me off at the start, because she had been near the finish all day. I couldn’t believe I’d made it to that point. We talked. We took pictures. And, then the drunk girls behind them yelled, “Go Alyssa, go finish your f***ing race!” I didn’t know whether to yell at them for saying that in front of my kids or laugh. I turned, took the full view of the finish line in, literally threw my arms up in the air, and went running down the road waving them like a little kid, screaming for joy on Christmas morning. The feeling in that moment will forever rank up there at the top of my list!!

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I crossed the finish line with a smile, a sense of relief, the pride of accomplishment, and the pure joy that comes from the purpose behind that run!! The Boston Marathon was run like a well-oiled machine from start to finish. I couldn’t have been more impressed and proud to be part of it. I loved Boston before, but it now holds a very dear piece of my heart!

I let a volunteer put a medal over my head and congratulate me and I thanked them for volunteering. I happily wrapped myself in a foil wrap and took the food and drinks offered. The pain and dehydration, the headache and the flooding nausea were intense. I’m not going to lie, it was by far my hardest race and my longest recovery (I am still hardly running and nursing my hip back to health), but it was a once in a lifetime, top of the bucket list, unforgettable, beyond meaningful experience that I will always cherish and never forget!! Again, thank you!!

MONDAY NIGHT: After getting back to the hotel and working toward recovery, we headed out for dinner (finally my turkey burger!!) and then the Post Celebration Night at Fenway Park!!

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TUESDAY MORNING: We took the boys to MIT for a campus tour (since they often talk of going to school there). Jake wants to find a cure for cancer or invent something helpful or be a weatherman. And Lukas wants to design cars or new technology or be an Olympic track star. The MIT tour was student led and it was funny and interesting and we loved it! When the tour was done, we met up with the friends and family that remained in the Boston area and ate lunch at an Irish pub before we made our way home. We spent those six hours talking about our incredible experience!


Thank you so much for reading this and following along on My Journey to Boston. That’s a Wrap!

The Final Countdown

I am about to age myself, but this is worth it! When I was growing up, I played softball and basketball. The excitement before running out onto the court at a big game was palpable. Your heart pounds. Your palms are sweaty. You feel a little trepidation and motivated all at the same time! One of the songs we ran out onto the court to (along with “We Will Rock You”) was “The Final Countdown.” Anyone born before 1995 will not be able to listen to this without feeling nostalgic :).

The Final Countdown. That’s exactly where I find myself right now. The taper. The last 13 days. The pounding heart. The nail biting (reserved for my thumbs only 🙂 !). The nerves in full force. The expectation for an experience of a lifetime. It’s almost GO time!

There’s no other way to say it – the month of March and early April have been a combination of both incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding! It has been a hair-pulling, head-spinning, over-scheduled month, including many training hours, many work hours, and tons of kids’ activities, all with Ben in 24-7 work/study mode. On the other hand, we were able to celebrate my son’s 8th birthday on the same day as we celebrate new beginnings because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, Easter. Another little exciting thing about this past month… I had the opportunity to travel to Boston to meet my Team in Training team, hear two amazing Mission Moment stories, and run our last long training run ON THE BOSTON MARATHON COURSE!! Within 30 hours time, I drove 700 miles, slept 1 hour, and ran 20 miles. A little cray cray and a whole lot of “will never forget!”

March’s stats:

  • 174 miles run
  • 5 cross-training workouts
  • My longest run in March and for this training cycle was 24 miles. I survived.
  • Team Alyssa t-shirts arrived on the 29th. Thank you to those who have purchased a t-shirt! We have 27 left for $10 each. Proceeds go to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you haven’t had a chance to jump on board yet and want to, this is an easy way to do it!

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Another exciting event was this past weekend. We had a Team Appreciation Party, to thank everyone who has made this journey possible. THANK YOU!! Along with Boston Baked Beans, New England Clam Chowder, Boston Cream Donuts, Fig Newtons, and everything else Boston and LLS themed, thanks to the efforts of my side-kick in this journey Kristin, we were fortunate enough to have Derek Fitzgerald, who is the only “Cancer, Heart Transplant, Ironman” in the world, share his story! This video is absolutely worth the 6 minutes! Please watch it to see exactly why we are passionate about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society specifically, but in general, about participating in something that is bigger than yourself. We all can make a difference in someone’s life!


To date Team Alyssa has raised $12,302!! That number will rise as we send in t-shirt proceeds and also receive the final countdown donations. OUR TEAM IS IN 11TH PLACE OF 90 TEAM IN TRAINING PARTICIPANTS!!!! This is HUGE!!! I feel incredibly lucky to represent all of you and your efforts to make this happen! 

If you haven’t had the chance to yet (or hearing The Final Countdown got you all fired up 🙂 !), 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,






February and the Run That Nearly Made Me Quit

February has been quite a month! My Journey to Boston continues to become more exciting and intense, with some really difficult parts thrown in along the way!

I logged a total of 173 running miles in February, spread out over 21 runs. Those 173 training miles included three speed, 2 hill, and 2 pace setting runs. They also included two long –  20 and 22 – mile runs. On top of the running miles, February also had 4 cross-training work-outs which included yoga and incline treadmill walking, planks, crunches, squats, and free weights. Then, the other four days that rounded out the month of February were rest days. Ahh, four whole rest days!

You may think that since runners love running, that they love it everyday, and all the time. Not the case. A couple weeks ago, on Feb. 12th, I did my 20 miler. It was horrific. Like, literally, the worst run of my life. By mile 3 I wanted to quit, and yet I knew I still had 17 miles to go. Seventeen whole miles. My legs felt heavy. My knees hurt. My back hurt. I had zero energy. I hadn’t slept much the week prior. I was mentally and emotionally spent. Each step was absolutely draining. If it wasn’t for my mental determination, and knowing that others were counting on me, I never would have finished. And, even with that mental drive, my body literally stopped moving several times, no matter how much I willed it to keep going. So, I stretched. And, gave myself several pep talks. And, continued on. I am convinced, amongst other things, I was experiencing full lactic acid build up. If you’ve never experienced lactic acid build up, you can’t quite imagine it. The symptoms include a burning feeling in your muscles. Your legs feel like concrete blocks that are hardening more with each second. They ache and hurt like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You have cramps, and nausea, and weakness, and exhaustion. It’s very different than the soreness you experience for a couple days after a really intense workout. It’s actually your body’s way to tell you to stop doing what you’re doing. That is how I ran my last eight of twenty miles that day. By the end I was in tears. I told myself that I wasn’t a runner and that I never would be. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to ever run again. Like never. Ever. Ever. Ever.

There will be days2

Two days later, I ran again, because there are people counting on me, and because I was supposed to and I’m a rule follower. It was an 8 miler and it was warm and sunny and it felt good. And, I knew I was back.

Two weeks after my horrific 20 miler that nearly caused me to quit running for good, it was time for my 22 mile run. My mind started to mess with me. You can’t quite know what it feels like in the days before you are about to make your body run a near marathon until you’ve done it. The nerves. The questions. The doubts. The lack of sleep. The pressure. It all adds up, and builds, and builds. And, when you nearly quit on your previous long run, the doubts intensify. I tried to pull myself together. But, it took every emotional, mental, and physical ounce of strength I had to convince myself I could do it.

Thanks to the amazing support of Team Alyssa and those who have been encouraging me and praying for me along each step of the journey, I conquered my 22 mile run last Friday. It was only a decent run, but it was a life changing run at the same time. I spent each mile praying for a specific person or family or topic. And, when God brought someone to mind related to that family or topic, I briefly prayed for them as well, specific prayers, specific names and needs, and then went back to who that mile was focused on. I also took one mile to pray for my church and each staff member and their families by name. I took one mile to pray for our country, politicians, and the current candidates and their families. And, I focused my very last mile 22 to pray about cancer – those who are fighting, those who have lost loved ones, research, and everyone we know who’s been affected. I almost always pray over the course of my runs no matter how short or long, but this was the very first time I focused so specifically on names and needs and topics and outcomes and weaknesses, one mile at a time. And, it changed me. Along with the fact that I know many were praying for me over those hours, I know it was the reason I made it through that run after having wanted to quit.

Another huge February accomplishment is that my team met our goal and continues to raise funds to provide treatments that are saving the lives of patients today. LLS is making cures happen by providing patient support services, advocacy for lifesaving treatments and the most promising cancer research anywhere. And it’s all happening now. Not someday, today. I am so honored to be a small part of this!!

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With just 6 weeks and 6 days until race day, the countdown is certainly on! I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has supported me both financially and through prayer and encouragement.

March will be a very big month including a 24  mile run in less than 2 weeks and then a 20 mile run up in Boston with Team in Training!! Stay tuned for updates!

One Step Closer!

My Journey to Boston has officially been in progress for 14 1/2 months now, not counting the months, even years, of training leading up to my qualifying run on Nov. 23, 2014. It’s been a crazy ride! As of yesterday, I am one very exciting step closer to crossing that finish line in Boston. Let me explain with a timeline of events:

  1. Nov. 23, 2014Philadelphia Marathon – BQ finish of 3:43:09. Qualifying time for a women 40 and over (at the time of running Boston) is 3:45:00. *My time qualified me for Boston 2016 because registration for Boston 2015 had already occurred in Sept. and was closed. A person has to qualify for Boston within 18 months of the race they’ll apply for, so the Philadelphia Marathon fits just outside of qualifying for the following year (because it’s after the registration) and fits just inside qualifying for the year after that (because it’s within the 18 month window).
  2. Nov. 24, 2014 – Sept. 30, 2015 – Ten months of bliss, dreaming of April 18, 2016.
  3. Sept. 21, 2015Applied for Boston 2016. *Heard rumors in the running world that the cut-off time (which had been at around 1 minute under qualifying time and at it’s highest, 1 1/2 minutes under qualifying time) would be higher this year. Spent 9 days worried about the mere 20 second cushion I had between the previously record high cut-off time under qualifying time and my actual Philly race time. Would it be enough? For the first time in nearly a year, I worried about if my dreams would come crashing down. I didn’t sleep. I just read and crunched numbers. And worried.
  4. Sept. 30, 2015 Got the news I’d been worried about hearing for the past 9 days. “Regrettably, we are unable to accept your application due to field size limitations and the large number of applications we received from those runners who met the qualifying standards that we have established for the race… Entries from applicants in your age group were accepted through and including the time 3:42:32.” I spent that day frozen in ugly cry face. Ten months of dreaming about an accomplished goal coming to fruition ended with one email, because of 37 seconds. What now?
  5. Oct. 5, 2015 – After a few days of disappointment, thinking, and praying, I decided to turn this devastating news into something good and apply for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. Hundreds of applications poured in for 85 spots. It was a long shot given the amazing stories of survivors and also given that I’m an out-of-state applicant. I prepared myself for more disappointment.
  6. Oct. 22, 2015 – Seventeen very long days after submitting my Team in Training Application I got a call that made me cry once again! “Alyssa, we’d like to offer you a spot with Team in Training for the Boston Marathon.”
  7. Oct. 30, 2015 – I announced my big, exciting news on Facebook and spent the next four weeks in shock and awe as so many wonderful people rallied around to support the team. We raised over $10,000 in just 4 weeks time!!
  8. Feb. 5, 2016 – Fast-forward a couple months, along with a couple thousand more dollars raised to Feb. 5th, which was the deadline I was given for having the minimum required amount of $5,000 in my LLS account, or I would have had to pay the balance myself. This is also the date that I had to fill out and turn in a “Recommitment” form stating that I had raised the minimum amount or was willing to pay and also that I believed I would be able to continue to train for and run/finish the Boston Marathon. I signed this immediately!
  9. Feb. 9, 2015 – That brings us to the final step in the process (outside of the rest of my training miles and actually running the marathon of course)… Applying for Boston (again) via my TnT invitation and waiting for that acceptance email. Getting my email invite yesterday from Team in Training to apply was bittersweet. It certainly brought back bad memories of my first go-round just a few months ago, but it also reminded me of where we’ve come and how God knew a better way all along! So, yesterday, I filled out my application and waited. Thankfully, I only had to wait for a couple short hours before I got the email I knew would come… my official acceptance from B.A.A. (Boston Athletic Association) as a runner into the 2016 Boston Marathon!!!Boston Acceptance
  10. April 18, 2016 – The final step will be here before we know it! I plan to enjoy the training (as much as possible) in anticipation of that great day, knowing that a dream will be fulfilled for me, but more importantly, that we will have collaboratively made a difference in the lives of many patients and families who have unfortunately been impacted by cancer. My team has reached 93% of goal with $621,079 raised as of today!!!Team Goal Countdown


World Cancer Day Challenge!

Today, Feb. 4th, is World Cancer Day! In support of my campaign with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Boston Team in Training, I’m putting a CHALLENGE out to you today! Who’s in?! I’m asking everyone who hasn’t had the chance to donate yet, to make today the day! I’m also asking every single one of my Facebook friends to donate $1 today to my team. Do it in honor or memory of those in your life that have or are fighting this ugly disease! For anyone who donates as little as $1 today to my team in honor of the global fight against cancer, you’ll be entered into a raffle prize to win an Amazon gift card. Along with a $1 donation, I’m asking you to make a difference in someone’s life who has been affected by cancer. Show love. Send a card. Make a meal. Run an errand. Be a friend.



“To everyone who’s hit their limit and even when you think you’re finished… It’s not over yet… Keep on fighting!… Life is the race we run, so run ’til the race is done… Don’t you ever give up!… Hope is rising, never give in, never give up!”  For King and Country
(A special thank you to Kristin for putting this video together!)


January Update: My Journey to Boston 

My training plan is going great! For the month of January, I ran a total of 159 miles, even with the Blizzard of 2016!

My longest run so far this training cycle was an 18 mile run last Friday, Jan. 30th. I took this picture when I finished the run!

Running in snow

The month of January also included 5 cross-training work-outs. Four of them comprised of walking incline on the treadmill, yoga, weights, crunches, squats, etc. And, one of them was a class at 9Round, which is a kickboxing fitness circuit (and kicked my butt!).


So far, Team Alyssa has raised $12,127.60. Knowing the positive impact that this money will make both for research and also in the lives of those who are fighting cancer everyday is what it’s all about! You guys seriously rock!

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To date, my entire Boston TNT has raised a whopping $484,088!!!! The team is trying to break the $500,000 mark by the training run this Saturday as we work toward our team goal of $665,000. The team consists of survivors, families members who have lost loved ones, and so many people with incredible stories! Many team members are running long distances for the very first time in their lives and the team ran it’s first 1/2 marathon training run this past weekend!

Are you up for the challenge?

2015 Wrap-up

2015 has been quite a year of ups and downs! Here are a few updates from Team Alyssa as we wrap-up this year and head into 2016:

  1. The support and encouragement we continue to receive has been overwhelming and incredible. Thank you!!
  2. We surpassed our goal and have currently raised $11,947.60 for LLS!! This is UNBELIEVABLE!!!    Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 5.34.36 PM
  3. We have had nearly 100 families and businesses join us on this Journey to Boston, to help fund treatments that save lives every day, and to do the research that will hopefully soon eradicate blood cancers!
  4. We are in 3rd place of 85 Boston Team in Training members!          Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 6.13.16 PM
  5. There are 15 weeks and 3 days until the big day – The Boston Marathon!Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 5.40.13 PM
  6. Official training started Dec. 1st and is going well! I’ve logged 152 running miles so far along with 5 cross-training work-outs. I ran my 14 miler this morning and have included several speed and hill runs in my new training schedule.

Raise your glasses tonight to a New Year filled with HOPE for a cure for all cancers!

If you’d like to join us, 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,

Making Exercise Part of Your Everyday Routine

There are two simple ways to ensure that exercise will become routine for you:

  1. View exercise as a non-negotiable required part of your day.

Just like sleeping, eating, showering, and brushing your teeth… exercise needs to be viewed as one of those things that has to happen for it to be a complete day. If people shower to clean the outside of their body and brush their teeth so they don’t rot, we need to be doing some sort of movement to keep the inside of our body from rotting and we need to view it as a necessity just like the other tasks. Our skin and hair need soap and water. And, our heart, lungs, and muscles need movement. If it’s not viewed as a necessity, excuses will be made, it will be put off and the end of the day will come before it happens. Schedule it in on your calendar if need be. Or, add it to your Wunderlist so you have a reminder and something to check off if that helps. However you do it, view it as a non-negotiable requirement.

2.   Make it fun by doing something you enjoy!

Pick an activity you like doing! Don’t commit to something for the next year that you won’t be able to stick to or that you despise. You may instead end up doing nothing. There are a million ways to move our bodies to get healthy. We all have opinions about what is fun. I happen to love running, but for others it’s a nightmare. So, don’t do it. Choose something else. The important thing is that you choose something! Pick an exercise that is fun or change up your regular routine when you’re bored to make it fun. Here’s my example: Today I brought two pacesetters and bodyguards 🙂 with me to the trail for a training run! Following behind them as they chatted away made my run different and fun!

Mary and Jake

Thank you for your encouragement and support which has made My Journey to Boston so far so fun! What is your new, fun routine going to look like to ensure you are living your healthiest life so that you can enjoy your family and serve others for a very long time?!

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,

Boston’s Team in Training Kickoff Meeting

My Team in Training team for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had their kickoff meeting and first team run this morning in Wellesley, MA. It was an opportunity to meet the rest of the team, the coaches, mentors, volunteers, honored heroes, and the Boston LLS Staff. The kickoff meeting began with a speaking program and then was followed by a team run. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be there today, but I’m very inspired by and excited about all of the stories being shared by the team. Here is a picture of the team members that were able to be there today!

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I am proud to say that so far, our team has raised nearly $200,000 to help fund treatments that save lives every day! And, it’s just the beginning of what this team is going to accomplish over the next several months!

Thanks to so many of you who have supported and encouraged me, we are currently in 3rd place with $10,558.20 raised so far!

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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,


Boston Marathon Training Officially Starts TODAY!

Just nine days after running the Philadelphia Marathon and my official training schedule for the 2016 Boston Marathon begins!! We are exactly nineteen weeks and 5 days out from race day, April 18, 2016.

Boston finish line

So, what does a ‘typical’ marathon training schedule look like? Good question. There really is no ‘typical’ schedule. If you google marathon training or talk to many different runners and coaches, you’ll come up with a huge variation of opinions and schedules. Often, training schedules go from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced, to competitive, but even those can vary tremendously. And, before any marathon training schedule even begins, a runner is encouraged to have a base ability to run 20-25 miles per week consistently for a month.

For the past 4 years, my marathon training schedule has been somewhere between an intermediate and advanced 20-week program. I typically put in the miles of the advanced schedule, which maxes out at over 50 miles per week and includes long runs that are over 20 miles. But, I have neglected to focus on the speed/hill training and also the cross-training of an advanced schedule, which makes my running calendar look a little more like an intermediate schedule.

A typical training week for me includes 6 runs and one rest day, which cover anywhere from 30-something miles to 50-something miles, depending on where I am at in the schedule and how far out race day is. An average run each of 5 days/week includes anywhere from a short 3-4 mile run up to an 8 mile run. And, then the 6th running day is my long run which begins at 10 miles the first week of a training schedule and works it’s way up to 24, or even 26 miles. I follow an “every other” training program which means that instead of increasing my long run by one mile each consecutive week – 15, 16, then 17 miles … and so on… I do 14 miles, then 12 miles the next week, then 16, then 12 the next week, then 18 miles, 12 miles, 20 miles, 12 miles, 22 miles, 12 miles, 24 miles… and so on… increasing my long run by 2 miles each time, but with a shorter 12 mile run the week in between. This works out best for my busy mom schedule and also my mental stability, knowing I have that 12 mile long run week in between my really long runs :). After the last long run (20+ miles), a 3-week taper period begins leading up to race day, which means reduced overall miles and also shorter ‘long’ runs. This time-frame can play with your mind! It is somewhat of a relief that you don’t have to do anymore of the long runs, but you also can start to feel unable to complete the upcoming 26.2 miles of race day with each passing day since your last long run.

For Boston 2016, I have 2 coaches with Team in Training that have put together a general training schedule that can be modified for each teammate based on fitness level. Due to already completing several marathons, I’ll be increasing the mileage included in their schedule. BUT, since I am not running Boston for any time or with any pace in mind, rather just for the enjoyment of those glorious 26.2 miles and knowing that we raised money and awareness for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I am going to mix up my traditional schedule and include some of their cross-training recommendations. This time around, I plan to run only 5 days a week (yikes!!) with my 6th day being a cross-training day. The cross-training day will include an hour work-out of weight training, core exercises, and one of either biking, uphill walking, or yoga. I am super excited for this change! Wish me luck!

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,


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,