The Wood-Fired Blog

The Race That Wasn’t

Of course they cancelled the New York Marathon, so I missed the opportunity to be a part of that great city for a couple of hours — though I am looking forward to trying again next year. With all that has happened in NY and New Jersey, I think the decision to cancel the race was a good one; sometimes bad things happen that are beyond our control, and the timing is just so bad there isn’t anything we can do about it. It would have been better for Mayor Bloomberg to cancel the race earlier than he did, allowing runners who did not want to fly into New York without the race to stay home. But from what I gather he is a full-speed ahead person, and there are times where we all have to make decisions based on imperfect information. We just have to do our best.

Of the 47,000 runners who were registered for the race, I am probably one of the more lucky ones. I flew to Boston to see our oldest daughter at college, and was planning to take the train down on Saturday morning. In fact, I was jogging on a treadmill watching the news on Friday when the announcement was made. Ironic. So, I stayed in Boston on Saturday, enjoyed the time with our daughter, and flew home Saturday evening. Plus, my goal race for the year is the California International Marathon (CIM) December 2, and I was treating the NYC marathon as a training run.

Running friends who had already made the trip (including a running club member from New Zealand), met up and ran through New York today. According to a friend from California:

Well that was amazing. What do thousands of runners do when there’s no race? They show up in Central park and go for a run, of course! The entire 6-mile loop looked something like this, a big rolling international party. The Italians were the loudest, the French ran against the flow. There were even people with cowbells and signs. My favorite: “You trained for longer than Kim Kardashian was married!”

We all wish the people of NY and New Jersey the best as they try to put the pieces back together.

One last note. Our daughter is studying engineering at MIT, and that fine school was recently named the best university in the world by a well-respected English publication. Go Beavers! Here is the cover of the Boston Magazine is the story titled “MIT Rising. How Harvard Became the Second Best School in Cambridge”.

Meanwhile, we have lots of exciting news coming up on pizza ovens, baking, oven accessories and outdoor fireplaces. In time for the Christmas season! Stay tuned.

A 51.25 Mile 50 Miler

Sometimes 50 miles just isn’t enough.

Yesterday at the Headlands 50 Ultra I went off the course not once, but twice and ended up running 51.25 miles. Not very smart! I was running with an experienced ultra runner, and we just got talking, and well, there we were. I concentrated at the intersections a lot more on the second lap.

With my detours, I finished the race at 9:35, which was fast enough for 5th overall (I think that is right, they haven’t posted the final results yet) and I got an award for winning the 50-up age group. Wahoo. The last 5 miles were a grind and the last two hills were a killer, but I felt really good up until then. Now, as long as my knee holds up, it’s time to start getting ready for the winter marathons.

This was my first 50 miler and my second trail race, and the experience was just great. At one spot running across a crest with views of the Marin headlands and the bay, I crossed paths with another runner about my age running the other way, and he called out “Isn’t this great! We are so lucky to be here”. I couldn’t agree more. At mile 32, we were at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, and running through lots of bikers, joggers and walkers out for the day, a young guy called out to me “you are having more fun than any of the runners I’ve seen all day”. I must have had a smile on my face.

Here are a couple of photos from previous years. The weather yesterday was beautiful.


Time to Taper

The Headlands 50 is in two weeks, which means it’s time to taper. I’m not sure whether I am excited, nervous, and just feeling stupid for signing up in the first place. You can only train so much for something like this. Unlike the marathon, where you can do lots of 20 mile training runs that give you an idea of your fitness level over a 26 mile race, 50 is a huge unknown. At some point, you have to hope that some lucky genetics (how will my body respond?) comes into play. Though I guess I learned a little from the CIM2LasVegas double, which was 52 miles, but with a gap in the middle, and on level roads.

My training cycle has been good, where I have run a little over 700 miles in the past two months, or roughly 12 miles a day. I have a 78 day, 833 mile streak going, without a day off. Wahoo. Tapering usually isn’t very fun. You tend to feel slow and lethargic, and you get a little stir crazy. It’s like having your hobby taken away for a couple of weeks — but it’s the right thing to do.

On the other hand, this race is just a transition, and my more serious goal for the rest of the year is to run a personal best time at CIM in December, and this is all building toward that goal. I am also running the NYC marathon in November, but that will just be a training run.

So, bring on taper madness.

Headlands 50

Speaking of hobbies. I have decided to run the Headlands 50 in Marin County on Sept 15th. It’s a 50 mile race with nearly 10,000 ft in elevation gain and loss. It’s two 25 mile laps of the same course, where I ran my first trail marathon last year, and I can say that the trails are pretty wild. Great views of the Pacific, the headlands, and the Golden Gate bridge and some scary cliffs.

Best case, I could win 50+. Worst case, I crash and burn and don’t finish. But that’s half the fun of distance running. You just never know. Maybe I can break 10:30.

I was considering the Vineman Ironman in Healdsburg, but after my knee injury healed, I fell back into my old habits of running. Beside, I’m a terrible swimmer.

You can see more on the race here:

To Ironman, nor not to Ironman…

I learned a number of things from Boston 2012; some good, some not so good. But one thing was certain. Boston 2012 was hot. Or, as one running friend put it—the highway to hell.

First off, a couple of basic numbers.

89ºF. The high on the course as we were finishing the race, though some local thermometers saw pockets of 92ºF.

More than 2,000. The number of runners who were treated by medics or hospitals for de-hydration or heat exhaustion after the race.

Less than 500. The number of runners who accepted the BAA’s offer of deferring their entry and race next year (though they have to pay twice and attend registration this year to pick up their racing pack to qualify for the deferment).

22,000. Runners finished.

3:53. My race time.

2:55. My best race time.

2:58. My race time at Boston last year.

3:51. My previous personal worst (excluding the Las Vegas double) race time at Big Sur two years ago (6 days after running Boston).

3:42. My first marathon in 2008, which I ran with very little training.

2.00 The number of minutes per mile I ran slower than Boston last year.

OK, I was slow.

On the upside, I had a great experience in 2012. Dinner with running friends before the race, our running club hung out at the athlete’s village before the race, I ran the entire race with friends, and we all met up for dinner and beer afterwards. I also saw our daughter at college, had dinner and lunch with here, and I even got to watch one of her track works. So it was an all around good experience.

The actual race, on the other hand, had its ups and downs. The good news is that my knee held up well, and it didn’t give me any trouble. I’ve started running again post-race, and everything seems fine. That makes me very happy.

Plus, most of us were smart. Our group went out slow and held our pace pretty much the entire race, and we talked with the crowd and gave high fives to hundreds of kids along the course. All of which is good, as there are many (many) reports from runners who tried to run a fast pace and crashed—either walking, not finishing, or ending up in the hospital.

But the heat really got to me. I thought that by running at such a slow race that the race would be a walk in the park—but it wasn’t. I overheated in the last few miles and got a little dizzy after the race for the first time ever. I have always thought of myself a pretty bullet-proof when it comes to running, so seeing stars, and having to sit down and pack ice on my head was a real surprise. Looking back, I think I stopped dumping water on my head toward the end of the race and perhaps didn’t drink enough Gatorade (though I did drink at every aid station—roughly every two miles) toward the end of the race. So I was a little fried.

Which brings me to Vineman, the Ironman triathlon I am thinking of signing up for in late July. It’s in Healdsburg, CA, which means it’s going to be hot. So it isn’t the mileage, it’s the heat that has me concerned. And the time has come to decide. There are about 100 spots left before it sells out. Ironman. Or not.

Meanwhile, I still have the Big Sur marathon to look forward to—a week from Sunday. Which means that I still have another race where I can put together a pacing plan and enjoy the day. Running on the rugged edge of the western world. It’s a great race, and it has been selected as one of the world’s Top 3 marathons by numerous publications.

It might be windy; it might be cold; it might be raining. But we do know one thing. It won’t be as hot as Boston.

More to come soon on oven curing, the new, small (and not yet released) Presto oven and hearth bread. Lots to look forward to!

8,000 Miles

Quick update on Boston 2012. The weather has taken care of any decisions I needed to make on race pace. Monday’s weather is forecast to be a balmy 87ºF. The Boston Marathon organizers has written to the runners telling everyone who is not very fit to not run, and for everyone to slow down and to be very cautious. Heat can kill. They are also offering deferment, allowing runners not run, and re-use their qualifying time in 2013 (though no refunds). It’s particularly too bad for runners who have trained so hard for 3-4 months and were peaking to run a PR (personal record) on Monday. I am already qualified to run in 2013, so I am up for a fun run.

At about mile 5 on Monday I will hit mile 8,000 run over the past 3 1/2 years. Lot’s more to go.

Now, back ovens. I am going to be blogging on oven curing next. I also have some thoughts on bread that I am putting together. More to come on that.

Boston 2012

This has nothing to do with pizza oven design or technology, outdoor fireplaces, or wood-fired cooking (sorry about that), but I wanted to share a little bit on my running. Or more accurately running injuries and Boston 2012.

I suffered a bruise on my femur on Dec. 4th. At first, the doctors thought that I has a stress fracture on my patella, which would have been a small and relatively fast healing injury. I stayed away from running for six weeks, and then tried ramping back up slowly running only on soft grass. After trying to build up for six weeks, I could see that my knee had not healed—so I had an MRI, which showed the bruise. The good news is that my knee will completely heal, that the cartilage, meniscus and ligaments are in good shape, and that my knee alignment is very good (my patella glides “flawlessly”). The only downside is that the bruise on a larger bone takes longer to heal. So I kept cycling and took off another four weeks from running.

Which roughly gets me to today. I have been running again for about 10 days, and am pretty confident that my knee is better.

The downside is about four months of disrupted running. But there are a couple of upsides as well. I have taken up cycling, averaging nearly 50 miles per day for one stretch, plus I have given my legs what might have been a necessary break from hard training and I have decided to try triathlons this summer. All of which are positive, both, I think, for my long term health and for my long term running goals. If I were to allow for a month of downtime following the December double, you could even make the case that it was only a three month disruption—and I ran some during the recovery time. So it could have been a lot worse.

For some perspective, I have been running for about 3 1/2 years, and this is my second injury. About two years ago, I strained an achilles tendon. That injury took six months to heal, and by coincidence, the recovery culminated with the Boston Marathon 2010. I ran the Boston 2 Big Sur double that year, and emerged feeling healthy and ready to train at full load again. With some luck, the B2B double this year will again mark the start of a solid new period of training.

Interestingly, while I look back on Boston 2010 with a lot of fond memories, I think I would call it the most difficult race I have run (out of 13 marathons so far). My general fitness level was not as high then as it is today, so the multiple month recovery period took its toll. I had to work very hard at that race to finish at 3:21, five minutes slower than my PR at that time. I’m still glad I raced hard and basically held it together my first time on the Boston course.

All of which brings me to today. Boston 2012 is in one week. And I need to decide how to approach the race. On one hand, I have barely run for the past 4 1/2 months—not exactly a good idea before racing a marathon. On the other hand, I came into this period with a pretty high degree of fitness, and I have been biking and swimming.

So while I can’t run a PR (2:54), I think it might be possible to run a decent race; though it is equally (or more) possible for me to try to run an OK race and completely crash—either during the entire second half, or in the last 10K. Do I race, or do I approach this as a training run? Do I run Boston comfortably, and race Big Sur in three week, and try to win my age group? Or, do I run both comfortably, so that I can pick up training again right after Big Sur? I am on the verge of signing up for the Vineman Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 111 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) on July 28th, and I don’t want to lose valuable training time to race recovery.

That is what I need to work out in the next seven days. If this race follows the pattern of other races, I will probably decide either at dinner the night before, or in the last couple of minutes before they sing the national anthem, and the gun goes off. Either way, it will be fun to work out what to do and even more fun to run the race.

Boston 2 Big Sur; Part 3

Tax day is coming, which means that it is time for Patriot Day (April 16th) in Massachusetts and the Boston Marathon. And the Boston 2 Big Sur double. The two marathons (the Big Sur Marathon is April 29th) are 13 days apart this year, which gives us a little breathing room.

There are couple of differences this year. First off, this is the first year that our daughter will be in Boston at school, and I am looking forward to seeing her, her friends and team mates. She is a freshman at MIT, and she runs track. As a fun side note, we drove down to So Cal this weekend to see her where they had been training all week (Pomona College in Claremont, CA) and then we drove from Claremont to Westmont College (Santa Barbara, CA) to watch the track meet. The MIT track program typically travels somewhere warm for spring break to start training for outdoor track season and to run one meet, and we were thrilled that they came to So Cal. (As an even further aside, she was All NE regional in the 400M during the indoor season. Proud parent.)

The other difference is that I have been struggling with a knee injury and will not be “racing” either of the two marathons this year. I found out after the (somewhat crazy) CIM 2 Las Vegas double (two marathons in one day) that I had bruised my femur, where it faces the patella in the knee, and it has taken some time for the bruise to heal. The good news is that I have started cycling and will be competing in a couple of triathlons this summer (more to come on that), but I am not in “race shape”. That means nothing fast, but I am still pretty hopefully that I can complete both marathons without too much pain and any a re-injury. I’m excited and looking forward to it.

The reason that any of this matters is that Forno Bravo has been fund-raising for the Christopher Reeve Foundation by taking advantage of my running for a number of years, and I am not slowing down.

You can sponsor me by buying on of the Forno Bravo eCookbooks for $10. Forno Bravo will match your donation and all proceeds go to the Reeve Foundation. I think there is a real connection between athletics and the Reeve Foundation, and many of us who are lucky enough and healthy enough to pursue our goals in athletic competition want to share our fortune with people who have to work much harder than we do just to get through their day. The Reeve Foundation does great work and I feel lucky to be associated with them.

Wish me luck.