What TO Wear

Did anyone else enjoy watching Clinton Kelly and Stacy London on TLC’s What Not To Wear?


In that same vain, and now that we’ve hit “feels like -1” outside, here are some of my tips for What TO Wear while running in the cold weather:

  1. Compression tights: If it is in the 30s or below, I pull out my thick, cold weather, compression tights.
  2. Compression Mock Turtleneck: Once it hits the 30s, my cold weather compression shirts get a lot of action. If it’s in the 20s, the mock turtlenecks are a must! One tip – I have found that tucking at least my first layer of shirt into my running pants is a huge help in keeping my torso warm!
  3. Fleece: If it’s in the low 30s or below, I add a fleece layer to my compression shirt. My favorite is made by North Face.
  4. Windbreaker: For me, a long, oversized windbreaker is essential!! If you’ve seen me running in the winter, you’ve seen me in my bright orange/yellow oversized windbreaker. While it’s not the style Clinton and Stacy would recommend, here are my practical reasons for this essential piece:
    • Water proof
    • Wind resistant
    • Long to keep my ‘behind’ warmer
    • Air space between the windbreaker and the fleece heats up and provides an extra insulation layer.
    • And extra core layer. When your core is warm it readily releases blood to the extremities. When your core gets cold your body’s natural defense is stop sending blood to the extremities and keep it for vital organs and the brain. Therefore the best solution for cold hands and feet is often to heat up your core.
    • It has a high neck and hood which can go over head gear and scarves, providing an extra layer.
  5. North Face Thermal Band: This item goes around my head, keeping my ears covered. (If the temps are in the singles digits or below, I will swap out a my thermal band for a full ski cap, but I really prefer the thermal band, which has better ear coverage.)
  6. Scarf: If the wind chills are 15 or below, I typically wrap an oversized scarf around my head and face. While a Balaclava would provide the coverage and warmth of a hat and scarf combined, I like the flexibility the multiple pieces give me to layer and remove as my run goes along and I warm up.
  7. Socks: Surprising, my feet are generally not cold once I start running, so unless it is in the teens, with wind chills below 0, OR there is moisture on the ground, I usually stick with my normal pair of running socks. But, for those occasions when it is that cold and/or there is a thick layer of snow on the ground, I add an extra pair of socks to warm my feet and cover my ankles. I wear my wicking running sock layer first against my feet and then I add a wool knee sock over top. These add an extra layer of warmth to my calves.
  8. Running Shoes:  For the cold weather or wet weather, there are a couple changes or additions I make to my running shoes. If it’s wet outside, even in the summer heat, I pick an older pair of running shoes so I don’t ruin my latest pair. (Wet sneakers stink if you haven’t noticed!) If there is ice or snow on the sidewalks, I go right for my YakTrax, which have steel spikes and coils to provide stability on ice and snow. The YakTrax go over an older pair of running shoes.                                                                                                                  Yaktrax
  9. Gloves: I wear different gloves depending on the temperatures. Once the temps get down into the 20s and especially if the “feels like” temp is fierce, I wear two layers of gloves. A smaller tight layer goes on first and then I wear large North Face gloves overtop. Again, the layer of air that gets warmed up in between provides needed insulation and warmth for my fingers, which are generally the body part that gets cold first and has the hardest time warming up. There have been times that even two layers of gloves doesn’t cut it for extended outdoor time and so at that point I add hand warmers in between the two pairs of gloves and also pull my windbreaker sleeves down over my gloves (another benefit of that oversized thing!)
  10. Smile: There is no doubt I look ridiculous running in sub-zero temps and ice and snow with a million layers. And, while my face may be frozen, which prevents me from looking like I’m wearing a smile… inside I generally am. There is almost never a time I would choose a treadmill run over an outdoor run, even when it’s frigid.

As long as you know What TO Wear, running outside in the cold can be enjoyable!

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

I should be doing what?!

Fartlek.  Every time I say the word, my kids laugh.  Okay, my husband does too. “Haha, fart, lick.” Yes, I live with 3 boys. I’m sure the first time I heard the word fartlek I did a double take and smirked too (at least in my head).

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Fartlek has “fart” in it because that is the Swedish word for speed. “Lek” means play, and so “speed-play” serves as a rough translation. It was developed by the national cross-country coach Gösta Holmér in response to the Sweden team’s poor performances against their Finnish rivals. Fartlek is not, however, a common word in Sweden either. But in running circles the world over, it is respected as a tried-and-tested training technique with proven benefits for speed endurance.

Unlike tempo and interval work, fartlek is unstructured and alternates moderate-to-hard efforts with easy throughout. After a warm-up, you play with speed by running at faster efforts for short periods of time (to that tree, to the sign) followed by easy-effort running to recover. The goal is to keep it free-flowing so you’re untethered to the watch or a plan, and to run at harder efforts but not a specific pace. The variable intensity and continuous nature of the exercise places stress on both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

A simple example of what a runner would do during a fartlek run, after a one mile/8-10 min. warm-up, is to sprint all out from one stop sign to the next, jog to the corner, give a medium effort for a couple of blocks, jog the distance of four parked cars, and then sprint to a stop sign, and so on, for a set total time or distance and then do a cool down one mile/8-10 min. run. Runners can use mailboxes, trashcans or telephone poles as their “starting” and “stopping” points for their different speeds. Another way to make it fun is to use a song you’re listening to. For example – sprinting during the chorus.

There are many benefits to Fartleks:

  • First, they are easily adjustable. You can add an endless variety of intervals to keep you motivated. It’s possible to change the overall distance of the run, the length and speed of the bursts, the method you use to measure each component, and the recovery times. If you feel sluggish, limit the number of sprints you do, and take more time to recover. If you feel great, run the sprints hard, and sprint again maybe when you don’t feel totally recovered.
  • Fartleks, just like other speed workouts prepare any runner for a race. Alternating speeds works both the aerobic and anaerobic training systems while simulating the ebb and flow nature of competitive running.
  • Fartleks also keep muscles, tendons, and nerves at top capacity.
  • Fartleks can be done anywhere. They don’t have to be measured on a track. They can be on roads, trails, or even hills.
  • And, something we all like to hear… because of the alternating intensity of the workout, fartleks allow you to burn more calories than if you were keeping a steady pace.

Personally, I just started including Fartleks in my training plan. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have actually enjoyed them so far. Maybe it’s because I do them on my shortest run of the week :)?! Regardless, they have definitely added variety and I feel like I am getting a much harder workout than the short steady run I otherwise would be doing that day. Here is an example of a recent 5 mile fartlek run. I did a slow first mile to warm up, did miles 2, 3, and 4 ‘fartlek style’ and then did a steady last mile. I thought my 5th mile was a slower cool-down-pace until I looked at my splits. Turns out, after doing 3 miles of fartleks, running at a faster than usual cool-down-pace for me, that last mile came more naturally and felt easy.

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Have you Fartlek’d lately?


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, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte

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, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte

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, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte


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, http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston16/adourte


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