Tag Archives: Embrace Sports

My fifteen minutes

24 Jan

I’ve found myself in the media not once, but twice this week.

First up was a discreet image from the lovely new Embrace Sports website – this is the company that Stuart and I use when we want to go on a training holiday. I was browsing the site and dreaming of a lovely holiday (that probably won’t happen due to having a new kitchen) when this image popped up:

New Embrace website.jpg

© Embrace Sports

I’m at the bottom left of the photo wearing glasses (which is how I know it’s quite an old pic as I’ve not worn glasses for over a year now!) The person at the top left is Alan who is a fantastic triathlete and professional sports model, so maybe I can legitimately claim that I was in an advert with a proper sports model ūüėČ

My second moment of fame came yesterday… about six weeks ago, I was interviewed by Mike, a reporter at Southampton Daily Echo. Nothing seemed to come of it, so I thought my story had been shelved. then I received a text message from a friend last night who said that his girlfriend had seen me in the Echo. I was a little surprised, so I went and had a look and sure enough, there I was!

Daily Echo news story.jpg

The feature originally came about after I won the Blogging Edge Sports Blogger of the Year award and before voting closed for the Bloggers’ Lounge Health and Fitness Blogger of the Year award closed. Since then, I’ve been nominated in both the ‘Health and Social Care’ and ‘Lifestyle’ categories of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Voting closes on Monday 25th January 2016 at 9pm, so if you’d like to vote for me, there’s still time!

Have you had your fifteen minutes of fame? What did you do?

Southampton Daily Echo article

Monchique bike ride and brick run

17 Oct

Fridays at Embrace Sports training camps are where the week’s training culminates in the completion of a test, whether it is a PB-breaking run or a new personal record for cycling distance. On this particular day (Friday 17/10), the challenge was a 100km ride up Monchique followed by a 4km brick run.

We all gathered by the pool before heading out to the road.


¬© Embrace Sports, 2014. Alan can’t help but get into a model’s pose when he senses a photographer nearby.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. The fast group.

We waved off the fast group, before setting off towards Monchique. I was still feeling a bit tired from my illness earlier in the week, but I was determined to complete the climb on my own (last time, Graeme had to push me up the mountain!)

The coaches had decided that we would tackle the mountain from the opposite side to my last attempt. This was quite a relief as it is far less steep on the other side, however, I had hoped to prove to myself how far I had come within a year.

It took me 4:56 to finish the 100km ride, with its 1469m of ascent. As soon as I got back, I put on my trainers and headed out for a brick run We had the choice of doing 1, 2 or 3 x 2km loops. I decided that I wanted to finish on 4km. I ended up running 4.2km in 26:50, which felt quite tough.

When I got back, I had a snack and dipped my legs in the pool for a while, before heading back to our apartment.

In the evening we had port and cheese before finishing off the week with a lovely group meal.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Last night with the tri group.

After the meal, we posed for a final group photo before some of us headed back to the apartments and others headed into town for more drinks.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.

What a fantastic end to a great fortnight of training!


Embrace Sports 16/10/14 Aquathlon for others; day in bed for me :-(

16 Oct

Thursday 16th October

This was the day of the aquathlon, but my cold had got worse overnight and I felt really rough. I felt torn about what to do. I didn’t want to miss out, but I didn’t want to make myself worse. In the end, I was sensible and went back to bed whilst Stuart went off for the aquathlon. He was struggling with a slight injury to his leg, so he was just going to swim.

I turned over and felt so tired that I didn’t wake again until nearly 11am.

Images from the aquathlon:

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This seems like an appropriate point to share this YouTube video on ‘Is it OK to pee in the ocean?’


In the afternoon, Graeme and Kat said that they would take everyone to Luz for scones. I didn’t go the previous week as I had been working in the afternoon, but I thought it would do me good to go out for a while, even though I was feeling really tired and not particularly hungry.

The scones were enormous… and they were served with Rodda’s clotted cream (the best-known Cornish brand). I had to try to teach people the difference between Devon and Cornish cream teas (Cornish = jam with cream on top; Devon = jam on top to hide the inferior cream).


After all of the scones had been consumed, we went for a walk. It was a lovely warm day and there were a surprising number of surfers in the water – surprising given that there was no surf! It is easy to see why this beach is popular with families with young children.


View of the beach at Luz. On top of the headland, it is possible to see the monument.

Some of the old buildings are attractive, including the church, which was built in 1637. It is actually the Roman Catholic church of Nossa Senhora da Luz (Our Lady of Light), but St Vincent’s Anglican congregation uses it with the gracious permission of the Portuguese Catholics.




The sea looked really inviting – if I hadn’t been ill, I would have definitely gone for a paddle!




Embrace Sports 15/10/14 Hell on the hills duathlon

15 Oct

The schedule for Wednesday showed that it was one of the workouts that I was most nervous about: Hell on the Hills duathlon.

Wednesday schedule

I promise I wasn’t drinking when I took this photo!

Last year I had a melt down on the first run during the duathlon as I was so afraid that I would crash my bike trying to cycle up the hill. Earlier in the week, I had asked Graeme if we could practice on the hill and he had sprung it on me, so that I had no option but to cycle up it. This gave me confidence that I would be able to do it on the day.

I was familiar with the course for the event: we would start in the middle of one hill, so we would run up it, down the other side, back down past the start to the beach at the bottom and back up to the middle before doing it three times on a bike and then once again on foot.

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I completed the event in 1:30:24, so the challenge for next year is to finish it in under 1:30.

In the afternoon, our activity was some pool swimming at the 50m outdoor pool.


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Swimming analysis:



Embrace Sports 14/10/14 Transition training and a ride to Aljezur

14 Oct

Tuesday 14th October

The day started with transition training in a local car park with Graeme and Andy. I was surprised that so few people decided to attend – I know that some of the others are very experienced, but I’m not sure that all of them are. Stu and I have done a couple of these workshops in the past, but we still think there is a lot of room for improvement.

Graeme broke the steps down, so that we practised running with our bikes first. It’s amazing how many experienced triathlons that I’ve seen a races who try to hold their bike’s handlebars when running in transition. This increases the risk of an accident as the runner is more likely to be hit by their bike’s pedal.

After we’d practised turning to the left and to the right with our bikes, we moved onto mounting our bikes. I’m quite confident at doing this in the car park, but I’ve not managed to do it whilst moving in a triathlon – I’m one of those annoying people who stops at the mount line – sorry!

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Before practising dismounting, we had to build up to it by swinging our ‘free’ leg over the saddle and then back again. I find this really difficult – I think it’s a combination of my lack of flexibility and the chunkiness of my thighs. However, I can dismount successful and have managed to do so in all of my triathlons this year.

We then moved on to putting our shoes on after mounting and then removing them before dismounting. I prefer to wear socks with my shoes which can make mounting more tricky as my socks tend to stick to the velcro. In comparison, I’ve practised removing my shoes a lot and can do that successfully.

When we’d had a go at everything, it was time for us to cycle back to the apartments, before heading out for the main ride of the day to Aljezur.

After the 90km ride to Aljezur, I did a 2 lap (4km brick run), before going for a shower.

Graeme then did a triathlon Q&A, which provided lots of helpful hints and tips.

In the evening, we went to Vlad’s restaurant (Atalaia) for a group meal. I had requested a salad, instead of the usual choice of pasta or omelette. The meal I was presented with was ‘unusual’ – the bottom layer was lettuce, tomato, cucumber and raw onion, whilst the top layer was slices of apple and orange. It was definitely unique!

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Embrace Sports 13/10/14 – A swim in the ocean and a woodland trail run

13 Oct

Monday 13th October

The day started early with an ocean swim. I love sea swimming, so this was a great treat.


We then had a bike maintenance course over breakfast. I’ve heard Neil explain the basics of bike maintenance before and have also been on a basic bike maintenance course, but that certainly doesn’t mean that I know very much. I keep hoping that each time I’ll understand and remember a little bit more. I’ve watched people replace an innertube many times, but the one time I had to do it myself, I found that my tyre was stuck on the wheel so tightly that I couldn’t get it off.

During Neil and Andy’s talk, they explained how to replace an innertube and also explained the importance of tightening up handlebars and seatposts. When I first put my bike together, I thought I had tightened everything up, but then Neil pushed hard on the handlebars and they slipped – oops! They also explained how to clean a bike – it turns out that baby wipes are a cyclist’s best friend. I also now know how to take apart a back wheel to clean all of the chain rings. This infomration will come in handy when I start on one of my next projects.

After breakfast, we headed off in the minibuses for the woodland trail run. I knew that the run would be tough as I was much more fatigued than I was last week, but I was determined that I would do my best.

I started the first lap at a faster pace than I was able to maintain. I tried not to go out unfeasibly quickly, but I couldn’t get my breathing sorted. I could see Paul up ahead – he kept turning around and looking back at us – and I felt reasonably confident that I would eventually catch up with him if I went steadily. Tietsia wasn’t far behind and I could hear Odette, hot on my heels. About 2km in, I managed to catch up with Paul, who started chatting. I had managed to get my breathing back under control and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to beat my time from last week, so I decided to stick with Paul and enjoy the run. It was a lot cooler than the previous week, and as a consequence of the rain, it was a lot tougher underfoot.

When we got to a downhill, Paul had to take it steady as he didn’t want to aggravate an old knee injury, but I love running downhill, so I went ahead, knowing that Paul would catch me on the next uphill.

Between 4 and 5km, Odette fell behind and was unable to catch up again. Paul and I continued chatting and pushing each other on. Eventually, we could see the finish. It took some effort for me to keep up with Paul, who had made his decision to complete one 5 mile lap.

When I got back, I decided that I wanted to complete another lap, so Jen agreed to come out and do a conversational lap. It was slower than my first lap and I had to stop and stretch a couple of times, but I was pleased that it wasn’t a terrible pace. I’ve not done very much running training over the last few months, so I it was a relief that I was still able to do the distance. Hopefully, it will help me to do well at Gosport Half Marathon.

The evening’s meal was a barbeque with some of Graeme’s home-made mashed potato – it was delicious!



Embrace Sports 12/10/14 Ocean swim and coastal ride with TT finish

12 Oct

The day started with open water swimming. It was an early start, but it’s always worth it to see the sunrise over the sea.

We got ready at the top of the cliff overlooking the beach.

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When we’d all got our wetsuits on, it was time to head down the steps to the beach.

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We were put into groups of swimmers who were of roughly similar ability and then headed out for a swim.

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I completed two loops of shark fin rock and wanted to do a third, but my partners didn’t want to, so a kind Dutch man (Rene) agreed that he would do another loop with me. He was a very considerate swimmer – of I strted to swim off course then he would tap me on the feet! It felt good to do three loops.

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It was then time to head back to base camp for breakfast before going out cycling.

Last minute preparations.

Last minute preparations.

We were quite a large group, which was nice. The guys were mainly very experienced cyclists who were coming back to the sport after some time off, whereas the women tended to be less experienced.


It was a route that I was already familiar with that went out along the coast road. The views were lovely and it was the perfect temperature.


As usual, the day finished with a time trial back from Aljezur. I was confident that I would do better than I had previously, although I was surprised to see Jen on one of the roundabouts. I slowed down, but she shouted at me to continue. Later, I learnt that Andy had had a serious accident and had gone over the crash barriers. Fortunately, he wasn’t seriously injured, but he spent the rest of the day at the hospital and his bike wasn’t fixed before he went home. What a sad end to the day






Embrace Sports 11/10/14 End of ‘party camp’; bring on triathlon week.

11 Oct

Saturday 11th October

It was sad to know that ‘party camp’ was coming to an end. I got up quite early to say goodbye to people and then had some time to do what I wanted, which was mainly lounging around.

It felt odd seeing the new group of people arrive. Everyone seemed to be much more serious than the runners and there were some very serious-looking bikes being unpacked.


In the afternoon, we went out for a 25km time trial. I was one of teh slower cyclists, but I didn’t do too badly, which was good. After we got back, we went out for a nice and easy brick run.


Embrace Sports 10/10/14 Targetted long run

10 Oct

Friday 10th October


It was the last full day of the camp, so it ended in the traditional way with a targetted long run. I had discussed my goal with Neil the night before – I wanted to complete 13.1 miles in 1:59:59, which would mean running at 5:40/km. I was confident that my fitness had improved enough that I would achieve my goal… but I did still have a slight niggle in my leg.

We all piled into the minibuses and headed to the starting point, where we posed for the obligatory group photos:


© Embrace Sports, 2014.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.

The team set out all of the necessities for a long run – drinks, bananas and some Haribo!


© Embrace Sports, 2014.

I headed off down the hill, but realised fairly quickly that I had a problem. My leg really hurt – I definitely had a hamstring issue. I decided to give it five minutes to see whether it would ease. Sadly, by the time I had run a kilometre I knew that my leg was not going to get better, so I decided not to risk further injury and started walking back to the start.

I’ve only run or cycled through Lagos before, so it gave me a chance to look out over the water. I was absolutely fascinated by all of the tiny black crabs that were scuttling on the rocks and harbour wall. Watching them was a good way to take my mind off my disappointment.

I got back to the start and had a chat with Graeme who resting his injured foot. It wasn’t long before we saw Neil running towards us, with Gaby in hot pursuit.

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Gaby always looks like she should be on the cover of a running magazine. The next runner to come along was Nico followed by Alan.

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After that, everyone came past in quick succession.


Dan ©Embrace Sports


Darren ©Embrace Sports


Marcus ©Embrace Sports


Keith ©Embrace Sports


Ian ©Embrace Sports


Rache ©Embrace Sports


Ed ©Embrace Sports


Jan and Paul ©Embrace Sports


Richard ©Embrace Sports


Sandrine and Rachel ©Embrace Sports


Rachel ©Embrace Sports


Pamela was running strong ©Embrace Sports


George ©Embrace Sports


Bernadette ©Embrace Sports


Nadine ©Embrace Sports


Ruth ©Embrace Sports


Graeme tried to lure in Caroline and Liz with some sweets ©Embrace Sports


Stu ©Embrace Sports


Rache ©Embrace Sports





Jeanette looked so happy every time she passed ©Embrace Sports


I had plenty of time to look at my surroundings as I knew that some people were aiming to run 20 miles. There is quite an impressive statue of St. Gonzalo of Lagos overlooking the harbour.



Pamela had helped to keep me going several times during the week, so it was great to be able to cheer her on. She was working really hard and was only able to squeak out “Juice, juice!” as she briefly paused for refreshment!



Richard was clearly enjoying his long run. When I started cheering for him, he came over and did a little dance… I think it was something from early ’90s Madchester!










Nico did one five mile lap very fast, as preparation for Amsterdam half marathon and Berlin marathon, so he treated himself to a little lie down.



Most people achieved what they had set out to do, so they were happy to pose for some photos , before heading back over to cheer on the people who were still running.

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The highlight of the day was when Jeanette finished with the exclamation of “15 chuffing miles. 50 years old and that’s the first time I’ve ever run 15 chuffing miles!”

We then headed back via the German patisserie, which hd a fine selection of cakes including apfel struedel, apfel torte and¬† schwarzw√§lder k√ľche. I hadn’t earned it, but I had a slice anyway!

In the afternoon, we headed down to the beach for a swim, before going to the nearest bar for a drink.


When we got back , there was port and cheese and a recap of everything we had done during the week (including photos). Then we went out for a boozy meal.

Ed came over to pose for some photos with me:



Then we had a full ‘Smith family’ photo:


The evening was rounded off by Jeanette and Al playing the spoons for us.


After the meal, we had our final group photo before most people went off for more drinks and Stu and I headed back to our apartment.



Embrace Sports Easy 10k run in Lagos

9 Oct

Thursday 9th October


The original plan was to do a run from Luz to Burgau with an optional boat excursion, but it was raining quite heavily, so we stayed in for a little while, before deciding to do a drizzly 10km run around Lagos instead.

It was quite wet, but I was glad to have Pamela to keep me company on the run and keep me motivated. It wasn’t super-quick, but I was happy enough to do 10km in an hour at the end of a tough week.

When we got back, we did a bit of foam rolling, which caused much hilarity as some people hadn’t used foam rollers before the holiday.



Then, it was out to the pool for a bit of volleyball.

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Some people went to Luz for scones, whilst others stayed behind to watch the Great British Bake Off on TV – doesn’t sound too much like ‘Party Camp’, does it? I had intended to watch TV, but after settling down in the other room with a drink, some magazines and good company, I ended up missing it.

Later in the day, we each had a chat with Neil to confirm what we were planning to do for our targeted runs. My aim was to run 13.1 miles at as close to PB pace as possible and definitely in under 2 hours. Neil showed me a great app (Run PaceCalc), which makes it easy to calculate paces (in metric or imperial).

In the evening, we had a pool competition – not swimming, but snooker. I was fairly rubbish, but not the worst. It was quite a fun way to end the evening.