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,

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 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,


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,


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

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,