US bank is quickly approaching--as of this posting 4 weeks and 2 days away, almost to the hour, from when i will be on the staircase! I was worried--how would i really respond? What if i don't even do as well as last year? How do i know what my training will actually do?
I looked at it this way: the staircase is 1680 steps. My goal is 12 minutes. That neatly breaks down to 140 steps a minute. So, if i can do 140 steps a minute for 12 minutes, i will hit my goal. If i can do that on the stairmaster, even though it's not exactly the same, i'll at least have a nice confidence boost.
I designed a plan. On a saturday i went to the gym and did a "solid effort" workout to try to hit 140 steps a minute. Not flat out, suffering until i feel i might die, but tough. I managed to mostly do it, slowing the machine to 80 steps a minute for 2 48 second intervals. So that was my baseline. I had 5 weeks to work up to my goal, with one week at the end to taper, or entirely rest.
I decided my plan was to do 12@140 every workout with 2 rest intervals the first week, 1 the second week, then hopefully none the remaining weeks. I would do this Monday, Wednesday, Friday.
The first monday felt pretty good. I shortened the rest intervals from 48 to 24 seconds, just because i felt like i didn't need the longer rest. Wednesday, the time for rest came, but i didn't need it. I soldered on, taking a rest at 8 because i could, and i wanted to make sure i didn't crash and finished the 12 minute. Friday, i never felt the need for a rest. 12 minutes at 140--i was worried about hitting it, and got it the first week. Boo-yah!
The second week was a bit rocky, i had a super busy weekend and had run the day before, so i took one break. Wednesday, i went to a different gym that has a weird stairmaster. But friday i had a great workout and 12@140 seemed not too bad.
Saturday i did a trail run, and sunday a bodysculpt class. Even with all that, this monday was the first official day i was supposed to do a no-rest workout, which i'd already been doing, so i decided to up the ante: 12:15 at 141--inching up duration and speed. Hit it! Tuesday i ran a 5k training run, and did it in 22:40, which would have been a huge PR not too long ago. So i hopped on the stairmaster with a goal of 12:30 at 142--tough, but i got it.
This much intense volume would have been far too much for me not too long ago. To what do i attribute my ability to handle it now? Part of it is just my adaptation over the years, but a lot of the improvement has to go to my diet. I've cut out not just fish, eggs, and dairy, but also most processed foods. Protein bars and powders are mostly gone, replaced with legumes, grains, fruits and as many greens as i can comfortably eat. My fat and protein intakes are down, and my carb intake is way up. The carbs are there to fuel my intense workouts, and you just don't need *that* much fat and protein. If one of my long hard weeks were to create a pound of muscle ( they won't ), a pound of muscle contains, at a very high bound, 100 grams of protein--in reality it is less than that. But even with this upper bound, that 100 grams of protein spread over a week is a surplus of 14 grams a day. So if you are putting on a pound of muscle a week, you need 14 surplus grams of protein a day, which just isn't much! A cup of legumes provides that easily, a serving of quinoa, a small/moderate salad.
In any case, thursday is going to be a needed rest day--i want to do my 12:45 at 143 easily friday. I'm going to get more serious about using sunday as a rest day too. After this i have three more training weeks, and with my current progression i'll end up doing 15@152 as my last hard workout before the race. It seems impossible now, but i hope that with perfect diet and precise training, i can do it! 152 steps/min in the race would get me low 11's which i know is not realistic--real stairs are 100% different than the stairmaster. But it's fun to dream. :)