The Wood-Fired Blog

A Few Thoughts on an Ironman

It’s been two weeks since I completed my first Ironman, and I wanted to share the experience with you. As a quick catch-up, I started training for Vineman in CA wine country, my first triathlon, five months ago, coming off a typical marathon racing cycle in December 2012. My feet and ankles were feeling a little beat up (tendonosis), and I wanted to take a period of time to focus on endurance, health and strength, without the pressure of running a marathon PR. So my first thought is that I did a pretty good job of achieving that goal. The training was fun, the race was a blast and I feel healthier and stronger than when I started.

A typical training week was 70 miles running, 180 miles cycling (lots of it on a stationary bike in the garage using an iPad), a couple of days of swimming for about 40 minutes, and 20-30 minutes of core and strength every day; 3+ hours a day on average. I slowed down training for the Boston and Big Sur marathons, but did not run those full out, so I was able to get right back at it.

Triathlons are a very gear-intensive sport.

Tri gear

By the numbers, I ran (did?) 12:32:01. That’s right. Twelve + hours, made up of the following:

1:22 Swim
6:51 Bike
4:00 Run
:17 Transitions

15th in my age group. 42 swimming. 40 biking. 3 running (my fault, I really should have been first; more to come on that).

As is the case with most marathons and ultras, we drove to the parking lot in the dark, and slowly shuffled our way to the start — where you set up your bike and get ready for the start of the swim. 5:15AM arrival and 6:39AM start.

I knew the swim was going to be my weakest link, and I thought it was going to be a disaster. My training times in the pool were not good, and I kept getting passed in the pool by little old ladies with water wings. I knew I wouldn’t have any trouble doing the 2.4 mile swim, but I was going to be slow; perhaps 1:30-1:45. The problem was that while my swim training times were getting faster by the week, they weren’t getting faster, fast enough. To where I decided to put more time into biking and less into swimming.

But what I didn’t know what what a big advantage you get from a Tri wetsuit. I rented a Zoot sleeveless wetsuit the day before the race, and tried it on the night before the race. The nice lady renting it to me kept asking if I had done any distance swimming before, or if I had ever swum in a wetsuit, and I kept smiling and saying no. These suits are really tight, and I went to bed worrying that I wouldn’t be able to breath.

When we got in the water to queue up of the start, it all made sense. I walked into the water, pushed off, and immediately bobbed to the top. Like a fishing bobber. So, I had a good chuckle, and thought that maybe I could do this.

The swimming leg itself was wild, and fun. We were started in waves, by age-group (with colored swim caps, so that you could identify your group), every three minutes. Which meant that you were passing people and (for me) lots of people were passing you from behind. Kicking, jostling, and even some profanity being hurled around as we made turns around the buoys. Really exciting, and as a friend pointed out, lots of testosterone flowing.

I fell into an easy rhythm and just cruised along. I thought I was going to be very near the back of the pack for my age group, but when I looked back, I could see that I was actually beating some of the guys. That was good.

The first transition was the more complicated of the two. You had to take off the wetsuit, put on your Tri shirt, clean the sand off your feet, and put on your socks, shoes, helmet, and GPS watch. Then throw all the swimming gear (including the sweats and shoes you wore to get there)  into a numbered bag, so you could pick them up at the end of the race. I did OK. You get out of the water and there are volunteers (great people) there helping pull off your wetsuit as you run along to find your bike. I got from the water to sensor where the cycling leg starts in 8 minutes. Not awful.

Funny. I spent a lot of time leading up to the race worrying about the heat of the afternoon for the run. But it never occurred to me that it was going to be cold cycling soaking wet at 8AM. And it was really cold and my teeth were chattering for the first hour or so. Who would have thought?

I put a lot of time into training for the cycling leg. Basically I was starting from scratch, and like my swimming, I knew I was getting faster, but I kept wishing that I was getting faster, faster than I was. I did a couple of timed, one hour rides on my new race bike in the week leading up to the race, to try to gauge my speed and endurance. I was hoping for 6:30, and pacing to 6:45. Between 16 and 17mph.

I had one hiccup pretty early on, when I realized that my back tire was rubbing the bike frame. It has been jostled somewhere during transportation and set-up, and I had to stop a couple of times to get it sorted out; and I even stopped at the first bike first-aid station to have a pro confirm that it looked OK. Lesson learned for next time.

It became clear that I was not in 6:30 shape around mile 30, when it started getting a little harder maintaining 17mph, and the muscles in my neck and shoulders started getting tired. I hit the half at 3:20, and knew then that I wouldn’t be able to do another 3:20 without having to put too much effort into it. I kept repeating my mantra: Finish. Stay out of the Medical Tent. Finish. Stay of out the Medical Tent. So I scaled back a little and kept trying to enjoy the day.

You can eat and drink a lot of the bike, so I had fun collecting Gatorade bottles and Cliff Bars at the aid stations, without stopping or crashing.

One interesting part of the cycling route was that it looped by our old house on Chalk Hill road; twice no less. If you’ve been following Forno Bravo for a long time, you might remember that we started in Windsor, CA, while I was living in Healdsburg and Italy. The house and the vineyard looked really nice. I planted a row of 200 Arbequina olive trees along the front fence of the property a few years before we moved, and it has completely grown in, and it looked great. Here’s to long-term planning. :-) I told the cyclist that I had been chatting with for miles that we were about to pass the house I had built — hammered every nail. Well, a large majority of them. She was nice about it and gave me a wahoo.

I made a small tactical error toward the end of the cycling leg. I had started to roll back my effort as the miles added up, and with 4-5 miles to go, I could smell the finish line and felt pretty fresh, so I cycled the last miles closer to 20mph. I felt fine, and I passed quite a few people, but what I would learn later was that I went into the run with my heart rate up a little too high. Next time, I will do a speed check and make up time leading into mile 100, and then really relax for the last 12 in order to prepare for the run. Live and learn.

The second transition was not my finest moment. I couldn’t find my race bag and was off by two rows in a sea of bikes and sports bags. I was wandering around looking for the green bag with my stuff. Not smart. I also realized that I had not “staged” my gear. Setting shoes, gels, hat, etc. right where I needed them. I had to dump everything out, sort through it, and put it on. Finally, I had decided the night before that I would run in running gear (loose shorts and shirt) rather than sticking with the tight Tri stuff. I hadn’t really trained in Tri shorts, and I didn’t want any huge blisters or chaffing marks. In the end, my second transition took 9 minutes. Ouch. The fast guys/gals do it in about 2:30. Another lesson learned.

The funny thing is that I was the only person on the entire race course not wearing Tri gear. I looked like a marathon runner who had got lost and accidentally ended up in an Ironman.

The marathon course was an out-back loop that we ran three times. So, it was roughly 4.4 out to a turn around. The weather was nice; much hotter than I am accustomed to, but it never hit the 90s. Getting on my feet after 8:30 in the water and on a bike felt good. Too good actually — I ran my first mile at 7:45. Which was completely unsustainable.

So I settled in, and enjoyed the moment. The first thing I figured out was that many Triathletes are cycling specialists, so there was a lot of walking and jog-walking. I passed hundreds of runners over the course of the marathon, and was passing people until the finish. All those people who had smoked me on the swim and bike legs. haha.

The course was pretty tough, with one hill that I need to walk each lap and a second hill that I walked the second and third laps. I hit the half at 1:51 and felt OK. I was still OK finishing the second lap, which got me to about 18 miles.

But the last 10K was tough. My stomach headed south, and I had to stop a couple of times and eat pretzels and water to keep from throwing up. The course was pretty much carnage at that point with lots of racers walking and stopping at the aid stations. Your thinking gets a little fuzzy at this point, and my math skills were suffering, but with a couple of miles to go, it occurred to me that I had a shot at breaking 4:00 on the marathon, and I ran the last two at 8:xx. My stomach had settled down, and I finished running really well, with a smile on my face. I just missed breaking 4:00, but the finish felt great.

I lost 6-7 minutes in the last 10K, and ran a positive 18 minute split (1:51/2:09) — as a runner, I should have done better than that. Still, I think I am in solid sub3 shape now, given the course and the conditions and the general rule of thumb to add an hour to your marathon time to get your Ironman marathon time.

Between my bike tire, my slow T2 time and my stomach issues, there was at most 15 minutes of lost time in my overall race, which means that I’m not quite in sub12 shape at this point. But I am in potential striking distance to possibly qualify for Kona in the next 2-4 years. I think I will need to go somewhere sub11 in the 55-59 AG to get there. So we’ll see.

Kona is the Ironman World Championship, and you get in by qualifying at a certified event. Qualifying it tough. Check out the finish at Kona.

Kona

I think some people do the Ironman once, and say “never again”. And I know runners who will never do another marathon. But I really had a good time. I don’t think this is the end of the line for me.

Going forward, I am hopeful that my marathon and Tri training will be compatible. What’s good for one, will be good for the other. With that in mind, I am getting close to making the commitment to take a stab at a PR marathon in December. California International Marathon (CIM) is early December; 17 weeks from tomorrow — I’m already registered. I think it’s going to take a serious commitment to specific marathon training (more speed training than I have done for the past 18 months), but I am hopeful that my legs and feet are strong enough to hold up to the pounding of hardcore speed training. My plan would be to do a complete marathon-specific training plan, while still doing additional cycling and swimming. We’ll see. I’m on 2:55:04 for the marathon, and 2:49:59 has a really nice ring to it.

If you’ve made it this far — thanks for taking the time to ready this!

 

 

 

 

Calling all Architects and Restaurant Designers (with DXF and DWG files)

We have started the process of re-publishing all of our oven drawings in CAD formats for architects and kitchen and restaurant designers — going forward our oven technical specification sheets with be available in PDF, DXF and DWG. The first models are the Modena2GFA120, 140, 160 and 180, and they are available in the the FB Library. The Modena2GOK ovens will be published shortly.

http://www.fornobravo.com/library

Modena2G

If you are an architect or designer, and you need anything additional from Forno Bravo for us to work with your plans — let us know.

This is a big step forward for us in the commercial oven marketplace. You will be seeing some additional exciting announcements from us in the commercial oven marketplace. Stay tuned.

Daily Hills and an Impending Ironman

hills

My first Ironman is now less than three weeks away, which means that starting tomorrow I am officially tapering for the race. Which is pretty scary. First off, I don’t really like tapering in general. Cutting back on training makes you feel lethargic and heavy, and lots of athletes, myself included, get a little crazy — taper madness. I’m also a little nervous because it is starting to sink in that I have never really done any of this stuff. I have never:

Run a triathlon of any distance.
Entered a cycling race of any distance.
Partaken in a swimming event since I was six.
Ridden a bike outdoors more than 30 miles.
Actually swam 2.4 miles. Ever.
Swam in open water.

I truly am a runner taking on my first triathlon. With this in mind, I am coming up with some realistic goals, including:

1. Do not end up in the medical tent.
2. Finish with a smile on my face.
3. Everything else is icing on the cake.

On the upside, I have had a good training cycle. I’ve been training for the event for about 20 weeks, with breaks for the Boston Marathon, Big Sur Marathon, flu and a long weekend at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. I’m averaging about 21 hours a week in training (plus core, strength and stretching), where I run roughly 70 miles and cycle 200 miles per week. I am in the best overall shape of my life (thought I have not trained for a marathon and could not go out a run a PR). I have run a lot of hills (see graph above), and my legs are feeling good about balancing running and cycling. That’s good for my old body.

Overall, I am really enjoying the experience (so far). So let’s bring on the main event. I think I’m ready.

An Open Letter Re: the Community Cookbook

Forno Bravo Community Cookbook
Everyone’s Invited to Join In!

Hello, Wood-Fired Oven Lovers.

Okay. I think we made a mistake. We included two pieces of similar news regarding the Forno Bravo Community Cookbook in the same publication (our June newsletter) – and it was confusing for our readers. We’re sorry about that.

So, let me try to clarify things here.

As you probably know, we recently started a special program to provide Primavera ovens to a few professional chefs, in exchange for their serving in an official capacity as consistent, regular contributors to the Community Cookbook. This is a fun way for us to build momentum and grow the Cookbook.

We have heard from a number of our community members who say they think that means we only want to have professional chefs posting recipes in the Cookbook. But nothing could be further from the truth! And we are very sorry if we implied as much and caused any offense.

The Community Cookbook is, as the name says, a community resource. We created it specifically so everyone could share their own experiences, recipes and comments in a community setting. We want everyone to join in and enjoy it! That is why we’ve just released a new, easier-to-use version of the Cookbook.

But from some responses we’ve received, I can see we were not clear about what we were trying to do.

Forno Bravo is all about community. For the past 10 years, we have enjoyed seeing each other’s ovens and recipes, making comments, giving tips, and getting to know a great community of people. Of all the things Forno Bravo has accomplished, I am the most proud of the group of people that has come together to create our wonderful community.

We want everyone to post recipes, make comments on other members’ recipes, and even create your own wood-fired cooking blog on the Community Cookbook. Jump in!

In summary, I want to sincerely express how much we appreciate all of you and your contributions to the world of wood-fired cooking. Please, light your ovens this weekend and let us know how it goes. We are looking forward to seeing all of your culinary creations.

– James

Pizza Ovens, Photographs, and Photoshop

We had a funny interchange on the Forno Brave Facebook page a while ago, when we posted a photo of the Andiamo oven with what looked like a photoshopped background of an business park. The basic question was — “why would you Photoshop an oven in front of a business park background?” The answer to the question was, “we didn’t.” We just used Photoshop to get rid of a couple of unattractive things (like cars and power lines), and the rest of the background was real. But the overall effect was not great.

Andiamo

So a little time has gone by, and we are now focusing our marketing energy on photography. One of the first changes is that the business park background is now gone.

Stay tuned. We are going to be doing a lot of work to make the quality of our photography higher, and to give you (customers and potential customers) better images and more views of our ovens, to let you really know what they look like — which is important particularly if you can’t see one of our ovens at Forno Bravo in California, at one of our dealers, or in the wild.

Chef’s Wanted

We are looking for a few good chefs. You might have seen that we announced a new program today on Facebook, where we will be making a free Primavera oven available to professional, working chefs in exchange for some great recipes and photos for the Forno Bravo Community Cookbook.

Trout

So, if you are a pro chef who loves wood-fired cooking (or who wants to learn to love wood-fired cooking), or even better if you know a couple of great chefs in your community who would be interested — get in touch with us!

Send us an email at chefs@fornobravo.com, and we will get right back to you.

The Ever Humbling Art of Breadbaking

Just when you think you have seen a lot, you do something new wrong. haha. This is a 75% hydration sourdough rye boule (the flavor was really good), where I did not use enough flour to keep the loaf from sticking to the banneton — it’s as though I am trying to find things that could go wrong. From now one I will use lots of flour to line by banneton.

Banneton

Oh well. The loaf came out OK despite the huge tear in the top. One skill I need to develop is docking a very wet load. I need to read up on that, or find a good YouTube video.

Sourdough rye boule

The FB Cookbook Get Social. Again.

Community Cookbook

The goal for the Forno Bravo Community Cookbook has always been to create a resource where wood-fired ovens lovers can get together and share recipes, techniques, photos and comments. So we are happy to be announcing the latest version of our FB Cookbook application. We now make it really easy for you to post your own recipes and photos, and we will soon be adding User Blogs, where you can sign up and blog your own cooking experiences and ideas.

Summer is just about here and the kids are out of school (if you have kids and they are still in school), so for many of us its time to fire up your oven and get cooking. Come on. Post a recipe. Give us your comments. Upload a photo. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.