Thursday, January 17, 2013

Stairmills: Will they give me legs like a unicorn?

Oh Stairmaster 7000 PT Stepmill, I love you dearly.
Note: The unicorns are imaginary. 
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Workout Type(s): Stair climb and strength training (core workout).
Miles ran: I have no idea, but I climbed stairs for two hours.  Next time I will keep track of how many floors I climbed.
Where: The Gym, in Englewood, New Jersey.  Yes, I am a member of a gym that is called The Gym.  However, The Gym is so awesome that I even felt compelled to write a yelp review: (  
Temperature: Room temperature. 
What I wore: Delaware Water Gap Fatt (yes, that’s two T’s) Ass 50K long sleeved tech shirt, Addidas tights, random white socks, Bondi Band headband
Sneakers: Brooks Ghost 5.
How I Felt: Good and bad.  Good when I was just climbing stairs one at a time.  Bad when I was skipping stairs.
What I thought about while running: Being inspired by Ted talks and not allowing myself to support myself with the side bars.  Also spent some time composing bad haiku.
Food consumed: A banana and peanut butter smoothie.
Notes: If I could climb stairs all day, I would.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Workout Type(s): Tempo run and strength training (squats and lunges and things that made me really sore today).
Also met with my chiropractor and acupuncturist.
Miles ran: 7.5
Where: The Gym, in Englewood, New Jersey.  
Temperature: Room temperature.  Duh.
What I wore: Google long sleeved tech shirt (Thanks Rob!), random black shorts, random white socks, Bondi Band headband.
Sneakers: Brooks Ghost 5.  They are now super clean, but there is a hole by the toe box.  I wonder if this should bother me more than it does.
How I Felt:  Generally, I felt pretty good, but then the bottom of my right foot started to hurt again towards the end of the workout.
What I thought about while running: Tried to do a more meditative run; I put Aha's "Take on Me" on repeat and concentrated on my breathing and being present.
Food consumed: A banana.
Notes: Although I’m not a huge fan of the dreadmill, I prefer using it for my tempo workouts because it forces me to work that much harder.  As I am trying to make each and every workout count, this is a good thing.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

No workout yet.    

Stairmill without unicorns.
I love the stairmill at my gym.  In fact, I have composed several haiku on how much I love the stairmill:

(Forgive me, I composed these while I was on the stairmill.)

climbing forever
I cannot touch the hand rails
that would be cheating

stairmaster stepmill:
a killer workout while I
read Robert Jordan.

biggest machine in
the gym, will it give me legs
like a unicorn?

Don't worry, they get progressively worse ;).

In case you have never seen a stairmill, it is a stairmaster machine on steroids that actually has stairs and not lever-type things.  While folks can get an excellent workout using a regular stairmaster, it doesn't do much for me because I never seem to take large enough steps to simulate the actual climbing I do when I am on the trails.

Reasons why I love using the stairmill:

(1) The stairmill gives me a darn good workout as long as I don't touch the handrails.  Once I use the handrails, I am not really climbing with my entire weight and then, what's the point?
(2) I move smoothly enough on the stairmill that I can actually read books.  As some of you know, the last book of the Wheel of Time series has come out and because I have been busy with work, training, and life in general, I decided to be super disciplined and didn't order it right away.  Unfortunately, two days ago, I succumbed to temptation and placed an order with Amazon and according to the shipping tracker, it has been delivered to my house.  However, I promised myself that I wouldn't read it unless I was on the stairmill.  Looks like I will be on the stairmill a lot the next week or so.
(3) I never have to wait to use the stairmill.  We have four stairmills at my gym, and it's incredibly rare to have more than two people on them at any time.  

In an ideal world, I would run the trails every day and I wouldn't need to use a stairmill, but I get out of work when it is already dark and too late for a smallish person to be running by herself on the trails.  In a somewhat ideal world, I would have access to a very tall building and I would climb real stairs, but I live in the Jersey suburbs.  The tallest building I have in my climbing arsenal is my house and I only have three floors to work with.  Therefore, my best option is the stairmill.  And I think it's a great alternative.

When I was thinking of training for Grindstone 100 (unfortunately my dancing-in-high heels-induced stress fracture happened and so I opted for an easier race), an ultrarunner friend Mark Leuner gave me some tips on how to prepare for the gnarlier 100s.  Since Grindstone (and all of the really epic 100s) involve climbs that can take hours-long, he suggested that I supplement my normal training with stair climbing, skipping every other stair and going slowly so I am less likely to burn out.  I think he suggested an hour, and that's what I started with, but now I climb for two to three hours and it's made me a lot more confident about dealing with races that involve a lot of vertical.  By the way, Mark has a fantastic blog with great race write ups that you should totally check out.  (    

My current workout plan has me doing these stair climbs every other week, so hopefully as the months go by, I will be able to take on the stairs more quickly.  That being said, I am not going to go overboard with the speed and injure myself.  I have come to terms with knowing that I will never be a fast ultraunner, and that my real strength is being able to endure.  So I am going to massage that endurance muscle as much as possible by doing lots of long climbs on stairs and on the trails.

Thoughts?  Comments?  Any suggestions on climbing workouts or how to capture a unicorn?  


  1. Why don't you try setting the dreadmill to 15% incline and start it slow like 2mph and up to 4mph?
    WS100 first 4miles climb ~2500 feet, equivalent to 3.5mph at 15% incline for an hour.

    Some dreadmill has 20% incline, even better

    I think the motions of stairmaster more like mountaineering than running.

    I also do brigde repeat. Brooklyn bridge (1 mile one way) x 10 times.

    Remember, it is not just ascent. Killer descents too. Train the quads.

  2. Thanks! I was actually about to send you an email about Western States, so glad you commented instead :)

    I'm going to do the dreadmill climb on Wednesday - thanks for the tip, you rock. And I'll check out Brooklyn Bridge this Sunday. It's funny that I still haven't run Brooklyn Bridge (I've walked it for SantaCon, but that doesn't count =P).

    I think most of my quad training will be at Bear Mountain and Mt. Tammany at the Delaware Water Gap. Hope that will be enough :(

  3. (1) Get a pacer(s). You'll need one(s). I didn't think I needed one but it definitely helped me to finish WS100 just under 30hrs when I picked one up at Mile 61.
    (2) Focus on WS100 first. If you don't finish it, no Grand Slam.
    (3) I can email you my WS100 training spreadsheet. DM me your email.
    (4) Bear Mountain 50Miles in May will be a final race to guage whether you're ready for WS100 in June.
    (5) Prepare to run on snow. I got ~20miles of snow at WS100. Fell and jammed my thumb for the next 90miles.
    (6) Hard to train running downhills in tri-state, like 60+mins non-stop downhills. I just do bridge repeats and quad exercises in the gym.
    (7) Do double. Morning run and night runs/power walk. My philisophy is to learn how to run when u r dead tired :-)
    (8) Leadville - can't help you there if you are oxygen deprived :-(

    Remember, just to have fun. don't kill yourself, too much.

    1. You are the best. Comments like these are why I started this blog :). Emailing you right. now.

  4. hilarious. I've been alternating stairmill days with long run days, so 180 flights with a 45-55lb pack, then full gym workout then alternate 10-15mi run the next day-6 days, one day off. This is as close as I can get to mimicing the hills in HURT.
    FYI, 120 flights is one Empire State Building. The fastest time up it is around 13 min. For perspective, I averaged 16:00 in my two runs.
    One ESB is around 5k milage-wise. ( I think)
    With that said, one ESB should take a committed runner 18-20 min. training-wise.
    This is a little less than 100 steps per min. a 13:00 min run would be 150 spm, and my 16 min is 125spm.
    2 ESB's is plenty of time on the machine. If you can do two ESB's easily, start adding resistance. get your waterbag full and climb with that. Once that gets easy, sart filling your bag with towels and weights.
    Once you get into the resistance climbing, you'll start seeing big gains in your run days.
    You will, in fact, have unicorn legs.

  5. This is too funny. Just as I finished posting on your wall, I got a message saying that you commented on this blog =P.

    I am so glad that I am getting all this advice early in the game so that I am not freaking out later about training methods I could have tried, but didn't.

    Quick question: So for your H.U.R.T. training, did you do any long runs longer than fifteen miles?


    I train with heavy packs (100lbs) on stairmaster when I trained for Denali because that is what is required to climb mountains.
    Not a believer as adding any weight in running.

    Train to power walking since, we're elite, we don't run uphills :-)

    The Big 3: Train, sleep (~8hrs) and nutrition (whole foods, for example) - do not miss any one of them.

    Friday is a good day to read blogs at work :-)

    1. Indeed. It's also a good day to plan race logistics ;). How did you manage to get a pacer for Western States? Yours was fantastic, if I recall. I remember reading his training report and wishing I could pace for WS.

  7. At WS100's Forest Hills (Mile 61'ish) where pacing is allowd, there will be some pacers become available when some runners didn't make it. I picked one up there.

    There are yahoo groups (search LT100Run and ws100 on yahoo group). Sparse emails nowadays since they may starting using FB more (join them). YOu can ask for pacers there.

    I will FB you and my WS100 pacer, Noe, who has bunch of runners running/pacing WS100 .

  8. Jacqueline - how did your race end up going after this method of training? I am currently in training for Superior 50 miler, which also has a LOT of climbing; so I just started to experiment with the stair machine at my gym this week. I was wondering if you felt that it prepared you well for Grindstone. Or if there was anything you might do different now to train for an ultra with lots of climbing. Thanks!