Sunday, 27 February 2011

VLM week -8: The week recovering from Bramley

Dear Friends, once again I must crave your forgiveness because I am late in my postings. The past weeks have been ones of pleasure, work and some running, which is no excuse but it is a reason.

So, to the running first. A couple of days of blessed rest after the successes of Bramley was extremely welcome (did I mention my 5 minutes 30 seconds personal best? Oh, I already have?). Back into the training on Wednesday and Friday with two easy runs, and then 22 miles on Sunday. All was feeling pretty good, however I did have a sharp pain in my left quad, which was particularly troublesome whilst going downhill. Nevertheless, I completed the run in a very respectable time, and felt in a good place with only 7 Sundays to go now to the London Marathon. Vital stats - 3 runs, 34.31 miles. As you will see next week, that injury came back to bite me again.

During the evenings, the talk was all of preparation - in particular, for the arrival of the 24 Italians from the town of Treviglio, with which Romsey has been endeavouring to twin for a number of years. After a successful exchange back in 2006, the 'colour' of the Treviglio council (il comune) changed, and the new mayor (il sindaco) decided that it would be better to twin with a town in Africa rather than a bourgeois, middle-class English one. Actually I think the real reason is that we do not make tractors, as the town is successfully twinned with one in Germany that does..anyway, thankfully a small group in the town decided to ignore the politicians and go it alone, so now we have the 'Amici di Romsey' visiting in one week's time. We will hopefully turn this into a formal twinning this year, after the council elections in May...

And finally, to the wine of the week, a lovely curiosity. I've plumped for Wither Hills Pinot Gris 2010 (Exclusive to Waitrose £9.49), a New Zealand take on the now ubiquitous North-Eastern Italian grape, so beloved of wine bars up and down the country. What this isn't is your ordinary, thin, acidic and lean white - far from it. This has aromas of lemon, honeysuckle, apricots, utterly beguiling to smell. On the palate, a ripeness, some honeyed tones, real depth of flavour. Truly different, and more in the Alsace style than the Italian. This wine has power (14% alcohol, incredibly, though it carries it very well) and structure, though also subtlety. A great wine from the ever-excellent winemaker Ben Glover, and a superb match for anything flavoursome such as a stir fries, Asian cuisine, or even a smoked fish. Though we had it with Pizza and it was a fairly good match for that as well!

Ciao tutti!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

VLM week -9: The week of the Bramley 20 and success..

As you will recall from last week's post, I started on Monday having pushed it a bit far. So, I deliberately cooled off this week, and just put in two short runs in the week, by way of a mini-taper for the weekend race. This proved, I think, a lucky approach. There's no doubt a moral tale there that I shall let you work out for yourself.

Saturday was very running - focused in a way, in that Janet and I took our niece Annie to Up and Running to buy some new shoes and gear. There is always gear to be bought where running is concerned. I know Thoreau said "mistrust all enterprises which requires new clothes", however that misses the benefit of new clothes in making the enterprise splendid. Anyway, Annie is at Southampton Uni, and is getting into running, so we thought this would be a good way to add extra encouragement. After a very pleasing trip to the shop - and a few purchases for us as well - we then went to see The King's Speech - and yes, it deserved many more Oscars! Then a pizza - not exactly the perfect race prep food. All in all a lovely day, if a bit later to bed than planned.

So, when I toed the line at the Bramley 20 I was curious as to what the day would bring. The day was cold, a bit early for a Sunday get-up, though I love the race, and the legs were nicely rested and ready for the off. The intention was to go with a Marathon pace, and end with the sense of a bit left in the legs. Somewhere around mile 2 I though 'hang on, this is a bit faster than plan', but I ploughed on regardless. By about mile 5 I was making good pace, well ahead of my pacing plan, with a growing sense of the possibility of a very good result. Well, to cut to the chase, it was a corker of a race - I was so very proud of my pacing, my strength, simply my control of my run. a personal best of 5 mins 30 seconds, which is HUGE for me. More than than, a confident race. I always loved Bramley, and now I really loved it!

As if the weekend did not already have enough going on in it, on the Sunday evening Janet and I ventured to Salisbury to watch Sarah Millican. I had braced myself for a round of deprecating male put downs, but there was none of that - just a really comic set. All good stuff..though the legs were very weary (I was still wearing my recovery leggings under my jeans!) and the seats were way up in the gods - not what I really needed. I still floated, however, on a cloud of post-race glory.

Not a wine but a beer of the week today - a bottle of Old Hooky, 4.6% from the Hook Norton Brewery (purchased in Waitrose). I do love a fruity, malty and rich pint - not for me the real hoppiness of an IPA - so this was a great choice. Of course there is also the nostalgia element, from my days at Bloxham, where the dray horse used to arrive every week to bring the weekly stocks for the JCR from Hok Norton, 5 miles down the road. We were never allowed Old Hooky, though, just the Best at 3.6%, very much a 'session' ale. As I have matured in my beer tastes, these rich beers, my favourite of which is probably Gales HSB, are where I am at. Winter warming in a glass.

And, so I hear, beer after exercise helps the body rehydrate better than water alone. Fantastic.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

VLM week -10: The week of doing too much

A week of pushing it pretty hard! 43 miles this week, which is not huge, however over the weekend I put in a great 8 miler at pace, with the middle 4 miles at 10k pace. I felt like the wind was in my shoes! Then, a tough 23 miles on the Sunday, in choppy weather, with tired legs from the previous day, having almost run a race! Well, as always, I suffered for it on Monday. On the upside, however, they were two cracking training runs, and so, as long as I could push it through, it would all be well! I am on the athletic knife-edge, for sure. Sounds a bit arrogant, when I say it like that - mind you, I am pushing to qualify for the Marathon 2012!

Wine of the week is a lovely Rhone wine, from the excellent 2007 vintage. It is Gigondas Les Pallieres 2007, Les Racines.  What a great drop. Beautiful sweet, rich fruit, A warming palate of mildly spicy Grenache, filling the mouth and lingering for ages. This is ripe, meaty, like a bowl of stewed brambly fruits. Yet again, proof of why the south of France can produce great wines that meet all our needs for big, warming reds.

Enjoy your week.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

VLM week -11: The week with the conference

A week of three halves, if I may use the old footballing analogy. The first part was up in Manchester, for the Spring Conference at GMex - a huge event with all B&Q managers there. What a show - with Jason Manford and Diversity. Of course the really special moment was the FlashMob, with yours truly right up there on stage - as you can see. Not sure what has happened to my midriff, there seems to be an odd kind of 'rucking up' going on.

It was a great event, and I was totally immersed in it. My role (if I may aggrandise it as such) was to run one of the stalls in a 'Millionaire' style - 16 sets of 15 minutes, one after the other. Knackering yet exciting at the same time. I loved the praise, of course, and this reminder of my pleasure end enjoyment with being on stage!

Runningwise you will be pleased to hear that I took full advantage of the LA Fitness attached to the Hotel. My, that is hardcore gymming, with serried ranks of cardio machines, and separate zones for the muscle queens, and the abs addicts.

Then, back to the normal life for a few days, recovering from a very sore throat and the start of a cold. Without a doubt I was still struggling after the weekend, as I had not at all recovered fully.

Over the weekend, a ragged 17 miler on the Saturday proved both my still-recovering state and my leg tiredness. A swift 6 miler on Sunday turned out much better, after which we were joined by Janet's family for the afternoon.

On the wine front, a glorious bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs 2004 from the truly excellent Paul Draper. Predominantly Zinfandel, with 30% of other grapes, Petite Sirah and Carignan. The colour is ruby red with a hint of juicy purple, and on the nose, sweet fruit with a touch of vanilla. On the palate, such sweet richness, very rounded and complete, with excellent structure, The palate is glorious, just a ripe wave of lushness. Paul Draper has indeed tamed the beast that is Zinfandel.

Have a great week!