climb higher, go farther, do more.
Inspired by some recent “planets” I encountered online, I decided to create my own. I took the original photo several years ago in NYC, just as the sun was setting over the reservoir in Central Park.

Inspired by some recent “planets” I encountered online, I decided to create my own. I took the original photo several years ago in NYC, just as the sun was setting over the reservoir in Central Park.

Today’s line-up. Two rounds of weight-based movements, and two rounds of plyometrics. Each round = 30 sec of exercise followed by 30 sec rest, with two min of rest between rounds. Amazing how 16 minutes of hard effort can hurt so bad.

Today’s line-up. Two rounds of weight-based movements, and two rounds of plyometrics. Each round = 30 sec of exercise followed by 30 sec rest, with two min of rest between rounds. Amazing how 16 minutes of hard effort can hurt so bad.

Incorporating Strength Training into an Ultramarathon Prep Plan

I’ve been reading a lot about various training regimens, and have focused my time and attention on heart-rate-based training, and on incorporating strength training into my routine. This post focuses on the latter.

More and more runners have written about the merits of specific weight training in order to develop better core strength and stability. The pounding of hours upon hours of running, day after day, certainly takes its toll on the body, and incorporating some weight training can help the body withstand the demands of such exercise, adding strength and stability not only to those muscles directly used when running, but also to the rest of the body, which also take a beating.

Over two years have passed since I started trail running (and racing), and in that time, I’ve run well, stayed healthy, and earned some good results. My training has fell into the category of “Run a lot of long slow distance” with the occasional hard run or hill climbing session, and it certainly has worked. I usually ran what I felt like running without paying much attention to specific types of workouts or runs. 

A few months ago, on relatively little training, I paced my buddy for 50 miles to help him complete his first 100-miler. Last month, I raced a short, hilly course and felt great. Recently, however, I’ve been wondering if I could be doing more. Not more running, per se, but whether being more disciplined and strategic about my training could lead to even better results. What if I there’s more potential waiting for me to unleash it? With a 100-miler coming up in 8 weeks, I want to make sure that I go into the race as healthy and prepared as possible.

Based on the information contained in a number of different blogs, but primarily building off of Rob Krar’s “Equalizer,” I put together a workout that I can complete in about one hour, two times a week. The workout consists of two types of exercises: those involving weights (kettlebells or dumbbells), and plyometrics. 

I have far more exercise movements than I can possible complete, so I randomly select eight from each category. I complete three sets of the weight exercises, followed by three sets of the plyometrics. Each set consists of 30 seconds of exercise, followed by 30 seconds of rest, repeated for all eight exercises, with two minutes of rest between sets. With eight exercises, each set takes ten minutes to complete, and six sets total equals one hour in the gym. (Cool fact: I used my Garmin watch to create the timer for the workout.)

I created a board on which I can display the exercises I’ve selected. Two small envelopes on the back of the board hold the pieces of paper on which I’ve printed the exercises, and I took the backing off a photo frame to create a stand for the board. Using binder clips, I can mount the exercises to the board so that I can see where I am throughout the routine. 

What you see above are the exercises I completed today. Next time, it’ll look different. And what I like most is that I don’t get to decide which exercises I perform. I just have to go with what I draw.

Here’s the full list of exercises. Anything I should add?


Turkish Get-Up *
Two-Arm KB Swing
Oblique Dips w/ KB
Bulgarian Split Leg Squats
KB Squat + Shoulder Press
Medicine Ball Throw
Windmill w/ KB **
Seated Ab Twists
Lunges carrying KB
Eccentric Calf Raises
Adductor Steps w/ band
Battle Rope
KB Figure Eights
Lat Raises
High Pulls

 */** If both pulled, put second one back and draw another exercise. Place exercise at end of set.
* Complete 10 Turkish Get-Ups each side.
** Complete 30 seconds each side, without rest in between.


Bicycle Crunches
Stationary Squats
Mountain Climbers
Windshield Wipers
Box Jumps
Knee Tuck Jumps
High Knees
Hanging Leg Raises
Quick Steps
Speed Skater

Hiked up the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail and Crawford Path to the summit of Mount Washington, tagging Mount Monroe along the way. Descended via the Gulfside and Jewell Trails. Trip and trail report coming. The long-and-short of it is that the Ammo provides amazing scenery, from waterfalls to views of the surrounding valley. Couldn’t have picked a better trail to climb New England’s highest peak! [photos taken with GoPro Hero 3+ Silver]

More photos of a sunset on the Cape

Hey! I saw your post of pictures you took with the GoPro Hero 3+ silver edition, (beautiful pics btw) I'm thinking of buying it. It would be my first GoPro to own, do you think it is a good camera/worth the price?

Hi! Thanks for the foliow and for re-blogging my post. Glad you liked the photos. My initial reaction to your question about whether or not to get the GoPro is to ask what you intend to use it for. If you will mostly take photos, then this is not the right camera. If you plan to do a lot of action shooting (both movies and still photos) that will subject your camera to water, dropping, extreme temperatures, then the GoPro is worth considering.

My main priority was to have something that I could take into the mountains and into the water (and everything in between), and the reality is that most waterproof cameras on the market have mediocre photo quality. So when it comes to the GoPros photo quality, I am willing to spend some time editing the photos. Here are some additional thoughts:

Things I like about the GoPro:

1. Small size makes it very portable.

2. Waterproof and durable housing means I can take it anywhere without worrying too much about breaking it.

3. Options for time-lapse photography are great.

4. Video quality is excellent.

5. Having the WiFi option is pretty cool. There is no viewfinder on the GoPro, so I sometimes use an app on my phone to check out what I’m doing.

6. Lots of options for mounts (head, chest, helmet, tripod, bike, etc.) although the mounts can get expensive very quickly!

Things I don’t like about the GoPro:

1. As mentioned above, photo quality is so-so. The images tend to be washed out and require some editing to get color and saturation back into the mix. If you’re willing to put in the time (it actually doesn’t require that much effort), it’s not so bad.

2. Another thing about image quality: because of the very wide-angle lens, you always get a curved fish-eye quality to the photos. It’s a cool effect that I usually enjoy, but it’s still there when I don’t want it…

3. Waterproof housing limits the sound transmission, so if you are in the water and want sound… doesn’t work so well. There is a separate door that you can use to improve sound quality, but if you use it, you have to make sure that you’re not subjecting the camera to the elements.

For me, the GoPro has definitely been worth the price, because it allows me to do the things I want. If you’re looking to save some money, check out the Hero 3 (no plus) - the quality there is also very good but not so expensive. 

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have other questions about this camera, or just cameras in general. As I mentioned, I’ve used a few other compact waterproof cameras, and I also regularly shoot with a Nikon DSLR.

Exploring the trails at Nickerson State Park, Brewster, MA. [Photo credit: Paul B]

Exploring the trails at Nickerson State Park, Brewster, MA. [Photo credit: Paul B]

Sunset on the Cape. Ellis Landing Beach Brewster, MA. [Photos taken with GoPro Hero 3+ Silver. Edited for color.]

Been spending quite a bit of time up in New Hampshire this summer, running, hiking, exploring. I took these photos during a 20-mile outing last week, when my friend, Eric, and I ran from the Lincoln Woods trailhead up the Osseo Path to Flume and the Franconia Ridge, across the ridge to Lafayette, and then back. An amazing day during which we ran under, into, and above the clouds. Talk about feeling as if on top of the world!

A Gutsy Performance


The start/finish area deck and aid station.(Photo cred: PGuza)

Almost a year has elapsed since my first, and only, attempt at the 100-mile distance. I DNFed. My friend, Jeff, had anxiously awaited my arrival at the start/finish area so that he could pace me for the third of my four 25-mile loops. Unfortunately, I dropped out after mile 53, succumbing to a tight and painful Achilles tendon. It did not take me long to recover physically, but the mental toll of the race and the DNF took me longer to overcome. Since then, I’ve learned a lot in the past year: patience, goal-setting and the revision of goals, the need for flexibility, the drive to just move forward. But as registration opened and this year’s TARC 100 neared, I did not possess the mental state or the physical readiness to take on the challenge again.

Jeff, however, had been training all winter for the event, and this year, I had the opportunity to support him in his quest to complete this sacred distance. Given my training and Jeff’s fear that the third loop would be the toughest for him, I planned to run miles 50-75 with him. Then, based on how I felt after that leg, I would try to join him for as much more as I could. Here’s our story. 

I woke up around 7:00am on Saturday morning, two hours after gun time and immediately checked the live update page to see the runners’ progress. Nothing. I texted Edie, Jeff’s wife and got a quick note from her: Jeff was moving well. Fast-forward three hours later and Jeff had already completed his first lap in 4:58. Well ahead of schedule, but I was not too surprised. The man is fast, and he has trouble reining himself in at the start of races. Sometimes, you just have to run! I did some quick math and realized that my projected start time of 5:00pm was too late. If Jeff stayed on this pace, I’d be running at 3:00pm.

I arrived at Hale Reservation around 1:30pm and quickly learned about numerous runners who had already dropped out due to the heat and various injuries. This year’s course, while drier than last year’s, featured much more technical terrain, and the warm temperature and humidity did not help matters. I also heard of 100-mile runners who, after spending eight hours on the course for their first 25 miles, had only just begun their second loop. They would surely miss a cut-off time later in the day, but I admired their determination and desire to stay out there on the course for as long as they could.


The start/finish area beach.(Photo cred: PGuza)

While waiting for Jeff to come back in, I drank two liters of water and still could not stay hydrated. With temperatures in the high 80s and my inability to take in enough water while remaining stationary, I could not imagine how all the runners would manage as they exerted themselves throughout the afternoon.

I began to have mixed feelings about when I wanted to start running. An earlier start meant running in the heat, but having more daylight by which to navigate the course; a later start meant cooler temps but encountering nightfall sooner. I quickly ridded my mind of those thoughts; I could not control any of that. I had to focus on the single task that I was there to complete: help Jeff cross the finish line. I soon learned that he had passed through the 45-mile aid station and would be back at the start/finish area soon. I made my final preparations, drank yet more water, and got ready. Before long, I saw a tall, skinny, shirtless guy in an orange hat come bounding down the beach. It was time to go.

We set off just before 4:00pm, and Jeff immediately told me that he needed to walk. After running so hard and so well for 50 miles, he had hit a low point. His legs ached, his Achilles tendon had tightened up, and his stomach did not feel great; he warned me quickly that he might throw up soon. We walked and jogged for the next few miles, and he updated me on the first half of the race. A few runners passed us in this section and we let them go. Such is the nature of a long race; we just had to worry about ourselves. Before long, Jeff pulled over and threw up, emptying his stomach of the raspberry smoothie he had consumed at the last aid station. “It’s not blood,” he quickly assured me, immediately sensing my worry when I saw red. I made a quick note to myself to switch out Jeff’s Tailwind drink for plain water, and to get some bland food into him at the next aid station. The mind has a strange way of making associations, and it quickly forms connections between certain tastes and nausea/vomiting; Jeff would not want any fruity drink for a long time (in the psychology world, we call this a conditioned taste aversion). With three-or-so miles to go, he would have some time to recover and for his stomach to settle, and so we pressed on.

The next 15 miles passed without much event. We went in and out of aid stations, we climbed a couple of steep hills, and we mixed bursts of chatter with bouts of silence. We passed some runners who had gotten lost and tried to redirect them, but without knowing where they had veered off course, we were unable to offer much help. At one point, after hearing some whip-poor-wills call out in the dusk, a reminder of his youth in Virginia, Jeff mentioned that he missed seeing fireflies, which were abundant in Virginia. I’ve seen them around here, and said as much, but in my experience, they’re more the exception than the rule.

Not long thereafter, we crested Powisett Peak, one of the high points of the course, and off in the distance, the final glow of the sun burned above the horizon. We stopped to soak in the scenery, admiring the beauty and grandeur of the surrounding land, silently expressing our gratitude for this small reward. Nighttime had already descended upon the valleys around us, and we began our downward trek into the darkness.


A view from one of the peaks, taken earlier in the day.(Photo cred: PGuza)

We began to hike more and run less as Jeff’s Achilles continued to tighten. We swapped off leads, doing our best to keep our pace at sub-20-minute-miles. Approaching the Powisett Farm aid station, we ran through a large field. And what graced our presence? FIREFLIES. Another sign, another occasion to rejoice, another lift for our spirits. In and out of the aid station, and Jeff told me he’d probably have to walk the last five miles of this loop, along with the 25 miles of the fourth loop.

It’s amazing how quickly doubts can arise. My mind and body quickly had opposing thoughts. My body: “I can do that. We’re not moving too fast right now. I can keep this up.” My mind: “Holy crap — eight hours of power hiking through this? That sounds miserable. There’s no way I can do that.” So again, I had to remind myself that I had but a single goal, and that goal had nothing to do with me. So long as my legs could move, I would stay on the course and keep Jeff company. At times I experienced the twinges and aches that inevitably sink in with this much time on the trail, and I doubted my ability to go much farther than 25 miles. I thought about warning Jeff that I would probably stop once we returned to the start/finish area. But then I thought about HIS race and HIS goal of finishing, and I knew the effect that a simple warning like that might have. I kept my mouth shut; I wouldn’t say anything unless I absolutely had to.

Before exiting the field, we ran into another runner and his pacer, lost on the trail. They had been way ahead of us, and as we pointed them in the right direction, they shared that they’d been circling this area for an hour. We kept going, figuring they’d pass us soon enough. But they never did. I don’t know what happened to them but Jeff and I wondered if the psychological blow of spending an extra hour on the course, lost at night, might have been the final straw for them. More doubts crept in: One of my jobs as a pacer is to keep my runner on course. What if I fail in this regard? Would I miss a turn and get us lost?

We kept hiking, trying to maintain a quick pace, and every time my watch beeped to signal that another mile had passed, we marveled at our ability to stay below 20 minutes, no matter how slowly we felt we had been moving. Whereas this truly would have been slow on other occasions, we gained confidence in our ability to continue. We stopped at the start/finish area to change socks and shoes, refill on water, and we kept walking. Hills came and went, seemingly taller and steeper than before.

"Every step you take is a PR, so just keep moving forward," I told Jeff over and over again, to the point that the was repeating aloud, too. It became our mantra through all of the difficult moments when it would have just been easier to stop.

Midnight. 1:00am. 2:00am. 3:00am. Soon we would see the sky lighting up. 4:00am and the black sky began to take on a blue-ish hue. 5:00am, and as chance would have it, we found ourselves atop Powisset Peak, the site of last night’s sunset. And there we paused, now catching a glimpse of the impending sunrise, another round of orange and pink rising in the distance. At this point, we knew that we could, and that we would, finish.

In the last five miles, I took over the lead, setting a pace that I knew Jeff could handle, allowing him to just focus on making forward progress. We began to jog more, taking the flats and downhills as much as his Achilles could handle. With about a mile left, we encountered three small rises, with the finish line just around the corner. As we crested the final bump, I moved over and Jeff took over in front. He picked up the pace, and as we neared the beach and finish line, I said to him, “When we hit the sand, I want you to do your best David Hasselhoff impersonation.” One last chuckle as we heard the ringing bell and cheers, as we picked up the pace one last time. I stayed close behind, offering final words of encouragement, praise, and applause. 


Approaching the finish line! (Photo cred: EDixon)

27 hours, 13 minutes, 36 seconds. Jeff did it. He trained for this event with purpose and determination. He didn’t quit when he realized that he would not meet his goal of 24 hours. He pushed through every low point on the course. He held his head high. He kept moving. He put in a gutsy performance. He finished.

Thank yous: First, a huge thank you to Jeff. I owe you tremendously for your many miles of companionship over the past year, and for letting me be a part of this momentous occasion. You’ve taught me a lot about about toughness — both mental and physical, and the will and fortitude it takes to go this distance. Second, a huge thank you to Edie, the race RDs, and all of the volunteers who got us through this event. We could not have done this without your smiles and words of encouragement, and your incredible care for our needs. Third, thank you to all of the other runners, and to the entire TARC family. We are an incredible community of people who push one another to accomplish incredible things. The example you set out there makes all of better runners and better people. Finally, thank you to my wife, who puts up with all of my training and crazy adventures, and who slept alone Saturday night. (Jeff thanks you, too.)

A link to our GPS track:


Jeff shows off his new belt buckle! (Photo cred: MMaher)