Tag Archives: Portugal

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 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 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  schwarzwälder küche. 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.


Embrace Sports 08/10/14 Track and monument coastal run.

8 Oct

Wednesday 8th October

I was quite excited about what was planned for Wednesday morning as I enjoy track sessions. It had been raining heavily, but by the time we arrived at the track, the sun had come out and it was starting to dry up.

Neil briefed all of us about what the session was going to be.


Then we did a group warm up of four laps of the track (1600m). I was a little frustrated as my legs felt really sluggish and I only managed to average 6:18/km, which I didn’t feel was a good start to the session.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. I love this picture… although it’s not possible to see my pair of bottles with nuun in one and water in the other!

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After we did the warm up, we were divided into ability groups for the main speedwork session. The plan was to do 400m, have a 60s recovery and then do 200m with a longer walking recovery (back to the start) – six times! I was confident that I could do the distance (how hard could it be to run 3.6km after a 1.6km warm up?) even with 1.2km of walking, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to pick the pace up.

As usual, I started off far too quickly. My average pace for the first 400m + 200m was 4:01/km. I think I managed the first 400m 12-15 seconds faster than any track session I’ve done recently, which I knew would make the last laps difficult.



My times for each of the sets were:

1.  2:27

2. 2:38

3. 2:44

4. 2:43

5. 2:47

6. 2:43

Overall, I don’t think that’s too bad… I now just need to do lots more speed sessions in the hope that I can finally achieve a 5km PB!

When we’d finished the session, there was a chance for the obligatory group photo.

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Then we all headed back to rehydrate.



It had been a tough session, but everyone seemed to be happy with how they’d done.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Both Rachels did brilliantly on the track.

When we got back to the Big Brother house Giramar apartments, the virtuous members of the group did some stretching and foam rolling.

Ruth hadn’t used a foam roller before, so Jan kindly gave her some tips…



Some members of the group also opted for an icebath/some volley ball, but I have no idea what Coach Alan decided to do…


…he seemed to be enjoying himself!


George and Ed didn’t feel that they needed wetsuits for their swim.




© Embrace Sports, 2014. An action shot of Stu!

Afterwards, I was treated to a modelling masterclass, where Ed demonstrated his ‘blue steel‘:


The first step is the smoulder…


…then there’s the gaze into the distance…


…before dissolving into giggles!

The evening recovery run was one that Stuart and I had done before – the monument run. However, on the previous running holiday that I did with Embrace Sports, we started at Praia de Porto de Mos and did a 10km run out to the monument and back as a main running session. This time, the plan was to run out for 12.5 minutes and then back again.

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I took it quite seriously on the way out, but have to admit that I got distracted by the crazy photographers on the way back. I ran until I’d got back to Sam and Lou and then I stopped for a drink!


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After all of that hard work, the evening’s feast was a barbeque. Neil slaved in front of the hot coals and Alan had made lovely falafel burgers for the vegetarians 🙂

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Embrace Sports 07/10/14 Hell on the hills.

7 Oct

Tuesday 7th October


Tuesday morning meant ‘hell on the hills’. 9.6km isn’t a long run, but when you realise that all of it was either uphill or downhill then you know what a challenge that is. Fortunately, it was a bit overcast, so it wasn’t as hot as it had been on some other days. I’ve done this session before, but my last attempt at running the first hill was as part of a duathlon last year. It didn’t go well, so I was a bit nervous.

Some of the other runners had quite a few beers the previous evening, so they weren’t feeling on top form, whereas I was feeling good, so I hoped that it would all go well for me. My first boost came when I managed to pass a few people on the downhill. I knew that I wouldn’t stay ahead of them, but it made me feel positive.


© Coach Andy leading the way. Not bad for a V50 😉


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Dan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Amie impressed everyone with her speed and tenacity.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Jen.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Ed was doing well, despite his hangover.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Keith.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Jan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Holly was injured and unable to run, so she was challenged to cycle the hills.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. George had managed to shake off her Bristolian pursuer…


© Embrace Sports, 2014. But Darren wasn’t going to give up without a fight.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Anna.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Neil.

When I was running up the first hill, I saw Kat on her way down. She is such a hugely inspirational athlete (and also a fellow Team SOS brand ambassador). On my way back towards the starting point, I could see Graeme cheering people on. He is one of the key influences who started me on this journey, so I was really happy to see him.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. I wasn’t trying to avoid the camera – I was getting rid of my sunglasses!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Super Kat!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Pamela.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Bernadette.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Ruth.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Anna in pursuit of Nadine.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Sally.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Sam.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Stu did really well 🙂


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Paul.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Holly.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Jen.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Lou.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Super-speedy Gaby.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. It was really great to see Graeme fresh from Ironman Barcelona.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Marcus.


© Embrace Sports, 2014.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Nico.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. I think this is a great photo of Ian – he looked so focussed, every time that we passed each other.

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I completed the event in 1:01:21, so I’ve got a great target for next time – I want to finish in under an hour 🙂 My average pace was 6:26/km, so I think I should be able to do better than that!

My Garmin stats.

My Garmin stats.

After we had finished running, we headed down to Praia de Porto de Mos, the nearby beach, where we took over the cafe.


Some of the others were interested in getting daiquiris, but Amie, Stuart and I were more interested in sampling the local pastel de nata (custard tarts).


I ordered a fruit juice, and managed to finish off all of my nuun before the juice arrived.

In the evening, we went to Vlad’s restaurant, Atalaia. Stu and I have been here before with Embrace Sports, so we knew what to expect: huge amounts of food. I ordered the vegetarian pasta and was quite relieved that the portion size wasn’t as large as on some previous visits!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Caroline and Jen.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Pamela, Paula and Marcus.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Our super-smiley flat-mate, Rachel.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Holly, Anna, Marcus and Gaby.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. The girls loved posing for the camera!

When we got back to our apartment, I was amused to get the following notification from RunKeeper:

New PB for running 7th October

That’s what happens when you record each rep as a separate run! 🙂


Embrace Sports 06/10/14 Portimao boardwalk reps

6 Oct

Monday 6th October

This morning, we headed out to Portimao for some boardwalk reps. Stu and I have visited Portimao before, but the session that we did last time was a pyramid sessions (200m, 400m, 800m and then reversed).

We started out with a group warm up jog around the marina, which is a lovely location. Then we had a quick breather whilst Neil explained a few points relating to running technique and heel/midfoot/forefoot striking.

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We were then divided into groups to do the 6 x 1 mile reps along the boardwalk, with a 2 minute break between each one. Andy was the coach allocated to my group.

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Stu was having a few twinges, but I was really happy to see him towards the front of the lead group each time that we passed each other.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. The fast group (L-R): George, Gaby, Nico, Marcus, Darren & Stu.


I’m not sure why this photo is so distorted – it makes my running form look terrible!

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The reps were tough and I wasn’t sure that I would make it through them. I had realised on the way to the start that I had left my inhaler in the minibus, so I hoped that I wouldn’t need it. Unfortunately, I started to have breathing problems after I’d run 3 reps, so Pamela kindly let me use her inhaler. What a lifesaver! At least I had remembered to bring my drinks with me: a bottle of water and a bottle of nuun. I could only drink form them every two miles, but that was fine.

The reps got harder as we became more tired, but this was also exacerbated by the temperature rising and the increasing number of pedestrians on the boardwalk that we had to run around. The wind also picked up in the middle, which made some of the runs harder than others.

I was surprised at how well I fared during the reps:

  1. 8:32
  2. 8:23
  3. 8:37
  4. 8:43
  5. 8:53
  6. 8:35

However, I’ve added this up and it come to over 51:40, so goodness knows how I ever managed a 6.2 mile race in 51:06!!!


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Sam made a new friend!

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When everyone had finished recovering, we headed up the steps to a lovely cafe with a stunning panoramic view.








© Embrace Sports, 2014. Andy, Neil and Jen.

I had a fruit juice at the cafe, but quite a few people decided to indulge in beer or ice-cream. Stu and I also had a chance to chat to Sam, who is from our local area (well, she’s a Pompey Jogger, but that’s close enough!) After a while, we decided to go for a wander on the beach and a paddle. Pamela and Caroline joined us. The water was so refreshing.

In the evening, we headed out for a coastal recovery run. We had hoped to stop at a bar for some drinks to start off Andy’s birthday celebrations, but they said they had too many reservations, to let us in, so we stayed outside.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel, Andy and Jan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Some of the partycamp crowd: (L-R) Dan, Bernadette, Rachel, Sally, Jan and Darren.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. A moment of silent contemplation for Dan, Darren and Andy.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Darren and Dan.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Rachel and Sally.

The weather stayed nice, so in the evneing, we ate outside. It was Andy’s birthday, so the coaches produced some cakes and Jan had even made some lovely chocolate coconut cakes.

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I think the pictures show what a great time everyone was having – there’s a reason why the October running camp is known as ‘party camp’!

It was great to check my email before going to bed and find another PB message from RunKeeper:

New PB for running October 6th 2014

I won’t maintain that average for the rest of the month, but it’s a good start 🙂


Embrace Sports 05/10/14 Woodland trail run

5 Oct

Sunday 5th October

I was looking forward to this run – I’d done it twice previously and was determined to beat my pace from my previous attempts. The first time I did the woodland run, I fell quite badly on my first lap and the second time I did it, I thought I’d paced it well and then found out afterwards that I’d run slower than my previous attempt.



© Embrace Sports, 2014. Group shot with wave!

I decided that I would go out at a reasonably fast pace, but that I would try to maintain the same pace throughout. I also decided that I would only aim for 10 miles (rather than 15 like in previous years) as I was aware that it was the first full day of two weeks of full-on training.

It was a relatively warm day, but I felt comfortable and it seemed like my asthma was finally under control. There was a small group of runners just behind me and it was tempting to slow down and join in with their conversation, but I knew that that would not help my run time, so I stayed just ahead, until the final mile or so. I kept pushing right to the finish and was delighted to see that I had completed the lap at a pace of 5:44/km, which was exactly 1 min/km faster than I managed in November 2013.

I stopped for a quick drink and stretch, before deciding to take the second lap at a gentler pace. I waited until sally finished and then persuaded her that we should go for another loop, but this tim at a sociable pace. It definitely wasn’t as fast as the first lap, but it was just as enjoyable.


There was a really positive mood by the end of the run. Some of teh people who were training for a marathon ran 20 miles…


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Gaby, Sally and Rachel.

…whereas others fell over and were still smiling.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. George was one of the trail’s casualties.

In the late afternoon, we went for a beach recovery run. Last year, I hated the beach runs, but this year I was feeling so much more positive.


© Embrace Sports, 2014. Group photo…


© Embrace Sports, 2014. …and a wave.


Neil explained that we were going to run out for 12.5 minutes before turning and running back 12.5 minutes.

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I think this photo shows just how much fun I was having. I really didn’t feel like I was having breathing problems and I wasn’t worried about my pace, I just wanted to enjoy it (although I was also taking care not to stand on any sea holly!)

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Sadly, Stu started having leg problems, so although he was ahead of me for a long time, he had to stop and walk, which made me worried about him.

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When we’d finished, the sea was conveniently close to act as an ice bath 🙂



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We then headed over to Linda’s, the beach-side bar, for some refreshments. The party crew were desperate for some margaritas, but I just wanted a mango juice – mmmm mango!


Mmmmm mango 🙂



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What a great start to the week!