26 May, 2006

Although I'm still sleeping like an exhausted man and fighting the summer sniffles, I've put my mind to planning the next running event.  A summer of 10k and half marathon action seems wise so's not to lose the edge which I've grudgingly pushed my flabby body into.  A late November marathon should let training fit with the allotment, the little darlings and holidays.

Aims have got to be to get the 10k and half marathon speeds down to give me a chance at a 3:30 marathon, so the schedule has half's at Bourton, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Kenilworth and Stroud and 10ks at Frampton Green (lovely race), Pinewood, Bugatti and Aldbourne.  1:34 for half and 40 minute 10k (cough…..).

That's obviously far more symetrical than I'll manage, but it's a reasonable plan.   



24 May, 2006


No, I don't grow it yet but it's in the plan.  Hey, it's my first growing season, give me a chance.  I do, however, drive past J.L. Lampitt's farm once a week for work at the moment.  I love asparagus and Lampitt's is good enough and cheap enough that I may take a while before I get round to producing my own. 

Eating it is a challenge recently solved.  The Line of Beauty has just made it to TV here and there is a lovely scene in the book which I missed in the adaptation where the principal character, Nick, is eating asparagus with his high-born hosts.  The social differences between them are demonstrated by them tucking in with their fingers while he tackles the spears with a knife and fork.  He has my sypathies.  I've never understood the finger thing or the tendency to drown the lovely veggie in butter or Hollandaise sauce.  The brilliant Marcella Hazan – surely the source for half of Jamie Oliver's recipes and all of the River Cafe's – has a lovely sauce which she does with home made Cannelloni in 'Marcella's Kitchen' and even more simply with macaroni in another book.  Even the little darlings lick their lips.  This also fuelled me around the Isle of Wight on Sunday but don't let that put you off. 

900g asparagus, 90g butter, 250ml water, 170g boiled unsmoked ham, grated parmesan to taste 

milk, butter, flour salt, nutmeg

homemade pasta (or dried macaroni on a weekday evening)

Trim the asparagus and place in a pan with the butter water and a little salt.  Cover and cook untill tender but firm.  Roughly chop the ham and the cooked asparagus in a food processor – big lumps are good.  Make the bechamel and mix with the asapragus and ham.  Add the parmesan.  If you're making Cannelloni, save half the sauce to pour over the top before baking.  Either stuff your Cannelloni or combine the sauce with the macaroni and pop it in a hot oven for 15 – 20 minutes.


Learning from the Isle of Wight

24 May, 2006

I planned for 3:35 and printed off one of the Runners World wristbands to help me.  I spent most of the first half about 20 – 40 seconds up on this but began to lose time after 14 miles.  This means that I did the first 14 in 1:55 or 8:21 minutes per mile and the second 12.2 in 1:57 or 9:35 mm.  Looking at the course profile doesn’t show that the second half is particularly tough for hills so I guess I slowed because I started faster than I was fit for, really.  The hills and the heavy, heavy rain were clearly attritional factors, but the basic lesson must be that I was under prepared for what I was aiming to do on this course on this day.  That is an analysis supported by the fatigue which I’m feeling now and the infection which even echinacea isn’t fighting off for me.  Issues, then:

1.      I was following a modified RW ultimate programme, but missed some mileage through colds and stuff in January – February and through a strange lack of motivation for 10 days in April.  End result was long runs of 18,20,20,22 instead of 18,20,20,20,22,18 so whilst what I did was more than ever before, it was clearly not enough.

2.      Speed work was also better than ever before but also sub-programme. Tough when you run solo as I tend to.

3.      Diet was generally good ‘though the wine bottle and the chocolate bar always look more attractive through the winter.   

Learns for the future:

1.      Do the programme (duh..)

2.      Join the club – I’ve tried to get involved with the local club but find it really difficult to make club nights fit with work and everything else.  Try harder.

3.      Expect Spring events to be harder than autumn ones – training though the Summer is so  much more pleasurable it’s bound to have an effect on the outcome.

In more general terms, I’ll favour flatter courses for the future and avoid events where the motorists are out there with the runners.  They were generally OK on the IoW, but I’d rather not have that extra concern.  They do their best to murder me in training, I’m not keen to give them another chance.   

Isle of Wight Marathon

22 May, 2006

Yesterday was the 50th consequetive running of this event, so congratulations to the organisers and their predecessors for some real dedication over the generations.  I have to say that they were all very nice and friendly, even if the medal that they gave me looks like it would be more at home fixed to a car than around my neck.  This was my first and probably last go at this course; my third and least enjoyable marathon so far. 

I entered when the London ballot failed me with the predicatability of my performance on the National Lottery ( I have more 'losers' merchanidise from London than I do 'finishers' from anywhere else) and the mate who was supposed to accompany me to Madrid double booked himself and I didn't fancy the trip alone.  Whilst going down in the glamour stakes, I seemed to have climbed a kind of headbanger index.  The course is very hilly, the day brought enough rain to make Noah nostalgic and a headwind to really sap your strength.  I ended in the top third which is par for my previous attempts but at 3:52 was far slower than plan.  Some blood down my shirt from a nasty nipple was diluted and spread by the rain to make me look nice and tough at the finish but I felt like a wet dishcloth.  Still, no injuries and some peace for a while.  Until we start training again for an Autumn run.

Incidentally, the Isle of Wight is horrid.  The eldest little darling went there on a school trip and had a lovely time, some people have told me that it's like Dorset but the bits I saw are more like Surbiton – unbroken miles of nasty houses. 

First Steps

17 May, 2006

The allotment part of this began on holiday last summer.  I said to the lady of the house that I was fed up with the pap that the Supermarkets offer us instead of vegetables – she agreed.  I said that I was also fed up with our veg-box supplier who is clearly well-intentioned, but just ‘aint cutting it, and she agreed with that too.  We decided together that there was no prospect of growing vegetables at home.  Our garden isn’t big enough and sits on top of a limestone hills which means that two inches under the grass sits more rubble than my back is up to moving – digging the flower borders nearly killed me.  So I said that the obvious answer was an allotment.  She was clearly delighted but also became the first in a long line of people to tell me that I won’t have the time and that I am mad.

After some hard work on the internet and telephone with more layers of local Government than I previously knew existed, I found myself wandering around parts of our nearest big village with one of the little darlings looking for an allotment site which I hadn’t previously known existed.  We tracked it down next to the cemetery – good for the soil, I guess, and found the Parish Council office by asking at the Post Office.  It feels appropriate to the tradition of allotments that a journey into working one begins with me finding my way around the local community.  I took the advice when they said that half a plot would do fine to start with but felt that they were being rather soppy and underestimating me.  I paid my annual rent – £5 – and from September 2005, the thing was ours.

I began by digging it.  It felt very big at this point.  I felt rather foolish when my hairdresser said that the ‘no dig method’ would have made life easier but felt that my purist approach was more admirable.  I made some grand plans and rather disappointedly left it in peace for the winter.