Tag Archives: triathlon holiday

Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 8

9 Nov

On our final day in Portugal, I got up early to bid goodbye to the people who were leaving early. Graeme, Kat and Alan were long gone, and two full minibuses were going for the early flight. Denny was one of the people who was leaving… but he hadn’t packed his bike box nd it took a little longer than he expected. Fortunately, Claire took pity on him and helped him to pack everything, so that they could leave on time.

After the first loads of people had gone, Stu and I prepared a light breakfast of toast and agreed to meet up with Flora for a short recovery jog out to the lighthouse and back.

Pappa Bear's porridge

No more porridge from Andy O until next year ūüė¶

It was a beautiful morning, so I took my camera with me to try to capture some images showing the stunning surroundings.

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It was quite a slow run, but as it was meant to be a recovery jog, that was fine. I also just wanted to get out and make the most of our last few hours in Portugal, as I knew I would spent most of the day sitting on a plane or car.

Recovery jog to the lighthouse Garmin data

Recovery jog to the lighthouse Garmin data

Recovery jog to the lighthouse: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161356

When we got back from our run, I had to go back to our apartment to pack. There was a small group of us who were left, so we went to Cafe Pinguin for a pizza for lunch… not healthy, but I think I earned it!We then went to the local supermarket ‘Super Eureka’ to buy some snacks for the journey home.


Shopping at Super Eureka

Shopping at Super Eureka

After that there was enough time for lounging by the pool, before the minibus ride to the airport.

Lounging by the pool after a 5km run to the lighthouse

Lounging by the pool after a 5km run to the lighthouse

Although it was a trip that challenged me in many ways, I really did enjoy myself and can’t wait to be able to book to attend again. I enjoyed it more than my running holiday as there were more activities and less free time, and the coaches (as always) were fantastic.


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 7

8 Nov
Day 7 Friday schedule

Day 7 Friday schedule

Friday was our last full day of the holiday, which made me very sad. Although I was finding it challenging, I really liked all of the other triathletes and find the coaches inspirational. I knew that the bike ride would be tough, but I was also aware that we had the entire day in which to complete it, and I was confident that I would be able to at least jog the 2km afterwards.

We were warned that it might be cold up the mountain and that we would need to be adequately prepared, so I packed my arm warmers and¬†a lightweight, waterproof running jacket. I also thought about taking my knee warmers, but didn’t think that I would need to use them as I’ve not used them in the UK before.

We set out early with Graeme and Kat and were told that Alan would catch up with us later. It seemed fairly pleasant until we got to the first big hill. As usual, I was at the back of the pack. I slowed down to stop, but was told to continue. unfortunately, I had lost quite a lot of momentum by then, but continued and did the best I could. unfortunately, it seemed like the hill was going on forever, so I got off and started pushing my bike. I got to the corner and realised that the hill continued quite a bit further. At Graeme’s request, I got back on my bike as he said that he would push me a bit. However, I had failed to clip in my left foot properly and when I tried to clip it in I toppled over to my right. A quick check confirmed that my worst fears had not been realised and I was not mortally wounded (I wasn’t bleeding at all), so I was able to get back on and with a bit of help from the Buscke motor, I made it to the top of that hill. THANK YOU, GRAEME!!!


Monchique madness bike ride © Embrace Sports

At the top of the hill, we stopped at a cafe for drinks, and to admire the view. However, we didn’t stop long as it was a little chilly and the coaches were concerned about the weather.

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After the toughest climb, we stopped for a drink

After the toughest climb, we stopped for a drink

We continued on through a switchback section, before tackling another climb. I resumed my usual position at the back. For a change, I wasn’t alone as Heather joined me for a while. We both found the last part of the climb quite tough, which was exacerbated by plunging temperatures and a number of crazed Portuguese rally drivers. Then the fog rolled in and visibility became poor and it also started to rain. I really started to struggle and found that although I wanted to press on, I was unable to breathe well enough to continue with the climb, so a couple of times, I got off my bike and walked until I could breathe more easily again. This meant that I was dropping further and further off the back of the group. I was so grateful to Graeme for helping me out. Not only is he one of the greatest athletes that I have ever met, but he is also incredibly kind and motivational.

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The abrupt change in the weather took me by surprise, but as I continued up the last part of the mountain, it reminded me of being at home on Bodmin moor. I didn’t initially feel the cold as I had been exerting myself, but as soon as I slowed, I realised just how chilly it was.

At the top of a mountain was a cafe, where everyone had stopped for a hot drink and a cake… well, everyone except for Graeme, Heather and I. We arrived and had enough time to drink half a glass of coke each before it was time to descend the mountain.

Coffee break at the top of Monchique

Coffee break at the top of Monchique


I put on my arm warmers and my waterproof jacket, but it was a little late as I was already cold and wet.

We left the cafe and started the descent. It felt treacherous as I have never ridden a road bike in the rain and I’m not very good at going downhill anyway. My fingers were really cold, and I was clutching the brakes as I was afraid that I would be unable to stop.

Part way down the mountain, we stopped to regroup, but no-one wanted to stop long as everyone was cold and wet through. I had appreciated my bike shoes earlier in the week as they are tri-specific ones with big velcro fasteners and large gaps, however, this meant that they easily filled with water and the cold air blew through them. It wasn’t long before I lost the feeling in my toes. As I slowed near the group, I felt something strange and realised that I had a flat tyre. understandably, no-one wanted to hang around, so poor Alan was left to help me change the inner tube. When I say ‘help me’, I actually mean ‘do it for me’. I am capable of replacing a tube, but it would have taken me far longer, especially as I was standing shivering and couldn’t move my fingers very well. Alan had a few problems with the CO2 cartridge, which was freezing his fingers and I felt really guilty, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

As soon as my tyre was fixed, we set off down the mountain, to try to catch up with the others. The rain had abated, but the road was still wet, so I tried to follow Alan as closely as possible. Then came my second problem, I slowed a bit much and my when changing gear my chain came off. I tried to pedal slowly to get it back on, but I was nervous about a forthcoming corner and somehow the chain got wedged. I tried calling out to Alan, but he was turning the corner already and couldn’t hear me. I was nervous that I would crash, so I unclipped and stopped at the side of the road to try to resolve the problem. I managed to cover my hands in oil, but was unable to release the chain. I knew that at some stage Alan would look back to check on me and would realise that I wasn’t there, so I didn’t worry too much. Sure enough, within a matter of minutes my knight in shining armour was back again. It didn’t take long for Alan to free my chain and get me moving again.

We caught up with the group on a flat piece of road. The sun had come out and everyone as starting to dry off. I took the advice of removing my wet jacket, so that my wet jersey could dry out. It was a sensible option as although I felt cool for a few minutes when I started cycling again, it didn’t take long for me to warm up and for my clothes to dry out.

The rest of the journey back to the apartments was fairly uneventful. I did my best to keep up with the others and was relieved that there were no more hills to battle up.

Monchique madness bike ride Garmin data

Monchique madness Garmin data: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161342

When we arrived back at the apartments, we had to do a 2km brick run. I remember just in time to do a flying dismount, but I didn’t look where I was putting my feet when I entered the transition area… it had also rained in Lagos and I stepped right in a puddle, so although my socks had dried out, I made them wet again ūüė¶

I quickly pulled on my shoes and got rid of all of the accessories that I didn’t need before heading out on a slow final plod.

2km brick run off the bike: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161351

2km brick run off the bike

2km brick run off the bike

When I got back from the run, I felt pangs of sadness. It had been a challenging day, but the coaches had helped me to complete it and I realised that all of our scheduled activities were over, except for the final meal out. I had to take my bottle off ‘my’ bike and then bid farewell to it.

Saying goodbye to the bikes

Saying goodbye to the bikes

In the evening, we had a slide show of photos from the week, accompanied by some local port and cheese, before heading out for a meal to celebrate our achievements. It was also an opportunity for the coaches to say their goodbyes as Alan, Graeme and Kat would be departing early the next morning before any of us got up.

Triathletes assemble

Triathletes assemble © Embrace Sports6nfOlT06MP2s0MEcrYqnBAADALE6JBIYXGpiRhOC83Y


Alan-san shows off his skills

Alan-san shows off his skills


The last supper

The last supper © Embrace Sports

It was really nice to have an opportunity to chat with everyone and lots of contact details were shared between the athletes.


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 6

7 Nov
Day 6 schedule

Day 6 schedule

After the previous day’s failure, I hoped that I’d be able to pull myself together for the triathlon, but I knew that it would be a challenge – I was the slowest runner in the group and one of the weakest swimmers. Because I was worried, I asked Graeme who my partner would be. He told me that I would be partnered with Stu, which had pros and cons. I know that Stu is one of the stronger swimmers and runners, but I felt sad that he had to be saddled with me just because I am his wife. I told him that, but he said he didn’t mind… however, I know that he is competitive at heart.

I dithered about whether I should do the aquathlon, or whether I would be better off joining the runners for a session at the track, so I spoke to Graeme about my doubts. Another of my fears was that I don’t like running in glasses. I’ve only done it twice: at an aquathlon in Eastleigh and at an aquathlon in Penzance – both times it felt odd and I felt queasy. Graeme agreed that if I would be happier putting in contact lenses in transition, then that’s what I should do. (I’ve been considering having laser eye surgery, but I save my thoughts on that for another post!)

Before the aquathlon

Before the aquathlon © Embrace Sports

We went to the beach and the route was explained. We set up our transition area on the deck of a cafe, and Graeme drew out a box to show the handover point for each team.

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Stu swam first for us and made a fairly speedy transition from the sea swim to the run.

Stu's transition

Stu’s transition

I managed to take quite a few photographs of the first wave of swimmers coming into transition.

Peet's transition

Peet’s transition

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Jenny 2


Jenny at the aquathlon

Jenny at the aquathlon

After I finished taking photos, I thought I should have a quick dip in the sea to get acclimatised, but as I got to the water’s edge, I realised that Stu was heading back down the cliff path, so I had to dash back up to the transition box. I then ran back down to the sea and threw myself in. Unfortunately, the water was much colder than I was expecting it to be, so I found it difficult to swim. One of the best tips that I was given by my running/tri coach was to spend some time floating face down when getting into open water, as this helps me to acclimatise quickly, but there was no time for that. I realised that I was breathing raggedly, but I didn’t want to let Stu down, so I pressed on.

When I got near to the edge, I started to unzip my wetsuit, so that I could flood it with water to make it easier to take off. I then ran up the beach with my hat and goggles still on. In transition, I put in my contact lenses, removed my wetsuit and hat and put on my trainers. I then started on the run.

I knew that I would be breathless, as I’ve struggled to run after swimming in the other aquathlons that I’ve done, but this was compounded by having to run up the cliff path. Hills are not my friend. There was a brief respite before another longer hill. the path then flattened a bit, but it was a gradual uphill until the turnaround point. All of the time, I was struggling to breathe and then I looked at my watch and saw just how slowly I was running. I felt such a sense of shame and disappointment that yet again, I was doing about 8 minutes per km. I never run that slowly at home and I had hoped that I would be doing much better. This made me feel upset and my ragged breathing got worse when I couldn’t stop myself from bursting into tears. That annoyed me even more as I had no real reason to cry, but I couldn’t stop myself. I finally reached the turnaround point and the run started to get better, but it still felt bad. I then made it back to the steps by the cliff and knew that Stu would be waiting for me on the beach.

After I tagged Stu, I spoke to Kat and said that I wasn’t sure that I could do another lap. She suggested that Alan could swim for me, but it wasn’t the swim that had bothered me. We agreed that I would swim with Alan and that he would then do the run. This made me feel slightly better, although I was still very angry with myself for being so useless. I had a think about my options and decided that perhaps if Alan were able to ‘run’ with me then perhaps I would be able to hold myself together a bit better and it wouldn’t be as bad. I then approached Graeme and suggested my new plan to him. He agreed that it would be OK, so I felt a bit better, although I was still annoyed with myself that I wasn’t mentally strong enough to run a few kilometres without someone else.

One of the lessons that I learned at the aquathlon is that getting a wet (and slightly sandy) wetsuit on is not an easy task. It took almost all of the time that Stu was swimming and running for me to reclothe myself! I then went down onto the beach in a slightly happier frame of mind. It wasn’t long before I had to set off on my swim. the water temperature seemed warmer and I was more relaxed, so it felt good… however, there were other swimmers who started quite a long time after me and almost all of them finished before me.YlJW6ghIZJXs2iVpsrHFVrMrcH-LGzTauOAmieSafws

My transition was much slower than it had been the previous time, but I was focussing on calming my breathing down, so that the run would not feel so bad. Alan was ready and waiting by the time I had my contact lenses in, and we set off up the cliff path together. It felt easier the second time and my Garmin showed that I was moving at a much better pace. By the time we got to the top of the hill, I was managing 5-something per kilometre, which made me feel much happier and I felt able to maintain the pace. Although Alan was ‘pacing’ me, he didn’t really have to say or do too much – I just felt so much more relaxed.

In the end, I was the last person to finish the aquathlon, so team Smith was last overall, but I was proud that I managed to pull myself together to finish the event. My run splits show that I did the second 3km almost 3 minutes faster than the first one, so it was a negative split to be proud of.

First run of the aquathlon: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161312

First run of the aquathlon

First run of the aquathlon

Second run of the aquathlon: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161323

Second run of the aquathlon

Second run of the aquathlon

In the afternoon, we went to a beautiful 50m outdoor pool for a swimming technique session. I’ve never seen a 50m pool before, let alone swum in one, so I was quite excited. As November is most definitely the off-season in the Algarve, the entire complex was deserted, which gave it quite an eerie and abandoned feel.


We all got into the pool, which was surprisingly cold. It always seems strange to me that the sea can be so much¬†colder than a small still body of water. Our first drill was to practise sighting, using a technique called ‘crocodile eyes’. Coach Ant taught me to sight by looking forwards after taking a breath and before putting my head back in the water, so I found this really difficult to do. I usually breathe every three strokes and if I’m not going too fast then every 5 strokes, but I found it difficult to raise my head without taking a breath, so I don’t think I managed the drill very successfully. I should probably have asked what the timing should have been with sighting and breathing, but I didn’t think of that until much later!

Graeme explaining the session

Graeme explaining the session © Embrace Sports

We then practised drafting, which required people to get into their swimming pace groups. I was partnered up with Andy and Jennie, but it didn’t work very well as¬†we all swim at different speeds. We had to practice drafting off someone’s feet first of all, before practising drafting off someone’s hip. It felt quite intrusive swimming so close to someone’s side and I’m not sure that I could feel the¬†benefit, so I think that I would be more likely to try to draft off someone’s feet… if there’s ever anyone swimming at about the right speed for me!!!

Next, Graeme got out an inflatable buoy to get Andy to demonstrate how to turn. unfortunately, the buoy had other plans, so in the end, Andy moved it out of the way and demonstrated the technique without it. It involved swimming up to the point and then rolling onto your back for a second before moving off again at a right angle. At the time, I thought I’d got it, but thinking about it now, I’m not sure that it’s fully lodged in my brain. I’ll have to get Stuart to practise it with me in the pool.

It was then my turn to be filmed swimming by Kat. She said that I could do half a length and turn around, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could swim 50m with a reasonable stroke. I realised that I started too quickly, but pushed on and finished the first length. On the way back, I tried to slow down and think about all of the things that Chris (my swimming instructor) has told me about not raising my head¬† when breathing, as well as remembering to use my legs, rather than just letting them trail behind me. I thought I’d done OK, but now I’ve seen the video, I can really see where I need to work on my technique.

When I returned to the others, they were involved in some handicapped races. I was the first to set off in the second wave, and I was quite pleased that I wasn’t last to finish, until I realised that this meant that I would have to go again. We did a couple more until there were just three of us left: Claire, Peet and I. Graeme came over and spoke to me and told me to swim a few strokes and then get out. I was a bit confused, but agreed to do so. I set off with Claire and Peet starting after me. When I went to get out, I realised that the side of the pool was quite high, so Graeme had to pull me out and I was then told to run to the other end of the pool and get in again. I got in a little bit too far from the end and had to swim very hard to ensure that I wasn’t beaten by Peet. Meanwhile, Claire had done the same on the other side. Peet had been swimming in the centre of the pool so he didn’t notice a thing and thought that he had been beaten fairly. It wasn’t until our evening meal that he was told what had happened! It was so funny!

Kiwi BBQ

Kiwi BBQ © Embrace Sports

The evening’s meal was a Kiwi BBQ, prepared by Graeme and Kat. The runners had had a talk/Q&A session about planning the training, which I had intended to go along to, but I was busy prepping veg and I think the rest did me good. As an alternative, the triathletes got to ‘Grill Graeme whilst grilling’. It was a relatively informal chat in the twilight by the barbeque where Graeme gave honest answers to anything we threw at him. I took notes as I thought it would be helpful for me to be able to refer back to Graeme’s pearls of wisdom:

  • Snack little and often.
  • Porridge is a good low GI carb for breakfast.
  • White bread, banana and honey¬†is a good combination if you need to eat something, but are running late for training.
  • If doing a 40-50k ride + brick, avoid high heart rate zones and just have water and salt tablets. This will help to train your body to burn fat.
  • Ensure¬†chocolate milk might be easier calories for you to absorb, if you have digestive problems whilst running.
  • Plan your food 10 days out from an event. Graeme finds it best to avoid fruit for three days before a race. It can be helpful to stock up on salt tablets before an event and ensure that you don’t over hydrate.
  • Malt loaf is good as a snack.
  • Brown rice is ideal the night before race. Suitable vegetables are peas and¬†carrots. A salad made of¬†¬†tomatoes, avocado and feta with good quality olive oil is also a good option. It is sensible to eat early the day before a big event.
  • Most people consume 250-350 calories per hour on the run, so it is important to replenish your supplies.
  • Remember to do speed work, intervals, hills, tempo etc for all disciplines.
  • The ideal training base is 9 sessions a week: 3 each of speed, strength and endurance – one for each discipline
  • If you plan well, it is possible to do two sessions a day, and this can be especially good training as you will get used to performing well when tired.
  • If training for a marathon¬†as well as¬†triathlons, it is essential to continue with speed work and long runs, but it is possible to¬†get benefits from other sports, so some workouts can be adapted or dropped.
  • Alan also shared some advice about how he improved his cycling by using a power meter. A lot of people use too much energy in the cycle leg of a triathlon and then struggle during the run. Alan works at 70-75% of power for an¬†ironman, with¬†80% being OK for a 70.3.
  • It is also important to work out your training speed¬†according to your¬†heart rate.
Graeme recommended one book as being a useful companion: Triathlon Science edited by Joe Friel and Jim Vance.
I found it a really informative session, although I’m sure that many more questions will come up as I start to train more and more and gain experience.


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 5

6 Nov
Day 5 schedule

Day 5 schedule

This was the most stressful day of the holiday for me. I know it was supposed to be a fun challenge, but I found the hill challenge very difficult in January: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/268718708 and as I had become increasing aware of my incompetence on a bike, I just didn’t think that I had the ability to repeatedly cycle up a very steep hill. I would love to be able to state with pride that I overcame my fears, but I can’t. I allowed the stress to get to me, and did something entirely uncharacteristic by quitting.

I started on the first hill, but just didn’t have it in my heart to do the event. I was stressed and upset, which was making me feel sick. I tried to run down the first hill, which should have been easy as I love running downhill, but every time I glanced at my garmin it said 8:30/km, which is horrendously slow. I knew that it must be accurate though as I could already see John and Stu speeding back up the hill towards me. This made me feel more and more upset, but I tried to pull myself together. Unfortunately, I felt so overwhelmed by emotion that (combined with my lack of warm up) I was unable to regulate my breathing. Thoughts went through my head of just turning around at that point, but it felt like it would be cheating, so I carried on.

When I got to the cone, I turned around and wouldn’t let myself stop and walk. I kept hoping that I would suddenly feel better, as I knew I would hate myself for being a quitter and a failure, but I was also dreading continuing on with the trudge whilst everyone else had to wait and politely clap for me.

Garmin data for failed duathlon

Garmin data for failed duathlon

As I saw the centre point where Graeme was, I crossed the road went over to the van and got my jumper out. I explained that I was done, and moved myself out of the way as John was already heading back for his first transition.


John © Embrace SportsZPhidPqdDWWHKNyQgHJL5fS423fDZt8zc_zRrnnkCQk

I was glad that I had sunglasses on as I felt so frustrated and disappointed with myself that I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. This was the moment that I was most afraid of. I had let myself down in January and had desperately hoped that I wouldn’t do the same again, but I had failed and it made me feel very sad.

Kat kept smiling throughout the duathlon

Kat kept smiling throughout the duathlon © Embrace Sports

Stu was glad when he finished cycling

Stu was glad when he finished cycling © Embrace Sports


Denny © Embrace Sports


Max © Embrace Sports


Claire © Embrace Sports



Denny posing

Denny posing © Embrace Sports

After the others had all come in and collected their bikes, Graeme kindly asked me whether I wanted to try a bike lap, which could have been a chance for redemption, but I was still too afraid of failure, so I didn’t take his offer.

Unfortunately, Jen was struggling with hip pain, so she didn’t finish her three bike laps and limped in to join Graeme and I. I wouldn’t wish injury on anyone, but it made me feel slightly better that I wasn’t the only DNF.

After a little while of brooding, I was able to pull myself together enough to do a bit of cheering for the others.

John running
John running © Embrace Sports

Stu © Embrace Sports
Claire © Embrace Sports
Poppy running
Poppy running © Embrace Sports

After the event had finished, we cycled back to the apartments, where others commiserated with me. I knew whilst thinking about quitting that I would feel angry with myself later, but I also knew that I couldn’t finish the event.

In the afternoon, we went for a recovery swim. It was great fun as it was very sunny, the water was warm, and there were lots of fish in the sea. As usual, we buddied up to swim around the rock, but as we weren’t training hard, it was possible for me to swim with Jen and Andy/Kat. We also played around in the shallows and I had a go at doing a handstand in the water for the first time. It was very strange. I’d like to think that my years of yoga and gymnastics have made me good at doing handstands, but I found it really hard. In the end Max and Kat had to try to help me, as I just couldn’t kick my legs up out of the water. Maybe at some stage, I’ll be able to try this in a swimming pool.

I also swam out to the first rock that you can see in the picture below to look at the fish there with Stu. I haven’t done many tumble turns recently, either, so I had a little go at practising those. I was so glad that we did the recovery swim as it helped to banish some of my sadness and disappointment from the morning.

Recovery swim
Recovery swim © Embrace Sports

In the late afternoon, we packed into the minibuses and travelled to a local beach that is flat and several kilometres long. Neil spoke to the whole group (runners and triathletes) about the basics of running form, including some information about foot strike and body positioning. It’s always helpful to have a reminder, although it’s definitely not possible to correct everything in one session!!!

Preparing for the running form class
Preparing for the running form class © Embrace Sports

We were then set a challenge – we had to run as far as we could down the beach in 12.5 minutes before turning and then running back for 12.5 minutes. In January, this was one of the runs that I found most difficult, as running on sand takes a lot of effort. However, I wanted to try to do well on this occasion, and I was better prepared as I wasn’t wearing shoes.

Before our 12.5 minute x 2 run
Before our 12.5 minute x 2 run © Embrace Sports

I ran at a sensible pace on the way out as I didn’t want to run out of energy. As I wasn’t putting too much pressure on myself, I managed to do about a mile in 12 minutes, and was able to maintain a similar pace on the way back. I think I managed to run more consistently than some of the others, who went out very quickly, but couldn’t return at the same speed.

Beach run
Beach run © Embrace Sports

When we had finished running, some people decided to paddle as the sea was a bit like an ice bath. Andy Ormesher dived in fully clothed for a swim, and quite a few of the others went in thigh-deep… including Dushen and John, who were surprised by a big wave!

Dushen and John got a little wet
Dushen and John got a little wet © Embrace Sports

Sadly, it was then time to head back to the apartments, as we had to get ready to go out for dinner at Vlad’s.

Heading onto the beach
Heading onto the beach © Embrace Sports
Garmin data for beach run
Garmin data for beach run

Garmin data for beach run: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161307


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 4

5 Nov
Day 4 schedule

Day 4 schedule

On Wednesday evening we got all of our stuff ready as we knew that we would have an early start on Thursday. I was looking forward to the swim, but was nervous about the long ride to Aljezur. Fortunately, some humour sneaked onto the schedule boards:

Running and tri schedule for Tuesday

Running and tri schedule for Tuesday

The runners weren’t sure whether they would really have to clean our bikes, but Bryn decided that he was having none of it, so he added the big “NO”.

Shark fin rock

Shark fin rock

As we had established that I didn’t really fit into any of the swimming pace groups, I did some laps of shark fin rock accompanied by Andy and Kat. I’ve realised that I love swimming in the sea when it is calm. (I’ve never tried swimming in rough sea). The waves were barely noticeable, and the salt water seems less saturated than when I first swam in Fowey Harbour.

When we got back to the Giramar, I had a quick breakfast of porridge, before we set out on a 90km ride.



It started out OK, but it wasn’t long before I started to struggle. If I could have caught up enough to draft people, that would have helped, but I’m just not a good enough cyclist. It wasn’t long before we got to a long hill, which felt endless. I didn’t really enjoy it as I was getting more and more stressed that I couldn’t keep up with the others. Kat entertained herself by cycling backwards and forwards, so that she would have some kind of workout… despite the fact that she was also cycling a very heavy bike.

At the first stop, I was tempted to say that I would cycle back to the apartment, but I didn’t want to be a quitter and I was hoping that it would get better. At this point, Graeme started to explain that he wanted us to do some drills. Firstly, he wanted us to cycle for 5 minutes before changing into top gear and cycling for 5 minutes. I could understand that this would be good for us, but I refused to participate as I couldn’t keep up anyway and was still afraid that I might fall on a hill. It is something that I must try when I go out cycling at home, in the hope that I’ll be able to keep up next time.

After lots of uphill cycling, there was finally a long downhill stretch that I really enjoyed… and then we arrived at a cake stop. I decided to indulge in a cake. I had no idea what anything in the cafe was, so I just pointed at something that looked like a coconutty swiss roll. I’m sure Katherine could tell me what it is, but I probably couldn’t spell it!

Strange Portuguese swiss roll

Strange Portuguese swiss roll

It was quite delicious, although I probably hadn’t burned enough calories to justify it!

Cakes in Aljezur?

Mel enjoying a cake

Cake stop

Jennie also had a cake

Heather cake

It was nice to have a break

Cake stop 2

It was beautifully wamr and sunny

Cake stop 3

The cafe was tiny

Bikes at cake stop

Our bikes attracted some attention from the local residents

Stop bikes

…perhaps because there were so many of them!

We didn’t rest for long before moving on again. Graeme set us another drill of unclipping one foot and pedalling for 20 strokes, before clipping in again and pedalling for 20 strokes before repeating on the other side. Apparently, he also said to do this for 15 minutes, but I didn’t hear that part. I was one of the last to leave the cafe, but some of the others seemed to be going slowly, so I passed them and continued whilst I was still able to. This went on for quite a while and I quite enjoyed pedalling with alternate legs.

One leg 1

Leaving the cake stop


One leg 2

The views were lovely

Eventually, some of the others passed me and pointed out that they had stopped one-legged cycling ages ago, but I hadn’t realised – doh! I think most people realised that they had one leg that was stronger than the other and they also had uneven pedal strokes. I won’t pretend that my strokes are as smooth as they should be, but I didn’t notice any significant difference in leg strength. Yippee – I’ve found my forte!

Later on, we stopped for another break. Most of us went to the cafe, as it was serving special egg-custard tarts (a local delicacy).

Egg custard tarts

Egg custard tarts are a local delicacy


To impress Katherine, Stuart had some Sumol.

Heather decided to find herself some more toy boys. Her American charm meant that she was able to make friends wherever she went!!!

Heather and her admirers!

Heather and her admirers! © Peet Denny

Some of the others decided to cycle out to the coast and I would have loved to have gone with them, but I was intensely conscious of how slow I am, so I agreed to cycle back with Stu, John, Jen and Claire. John tried to help me by getting us into a ‘chain gang’ to practise drafting. It worked until we hit a hill and I finished my turn at the front. I fell behind and was unable to catch up again. I found it intensely frustrating as I hate letting other people down, but I just don’t know how to cycle faster. After a while, we reached a downhill and then it didn’t take us long to get back to the apartments.

Garmin data for bike ride out to Aljezur

Garmin data for bike ride out to Aljezur

Garmin data for bike ride out to Aljezur: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161285

When we got back from the bike ride we had the choice of doing a 4km or 6km run off the bike. As I felt that I had let myself down again by getting so upset on the bike ride in the morning and being unable to keep up with the others on the way back, I decided to pay penance by doing 6km. As I didn’t have to keep up with anyone, I felt that the pressure was off me and despite going slowly, I felt a lot happier. Unfortunately, when I got back, I found out that Jen had gone out on her bike to look for me as they worried that I had had a problem – oops!

Brick run off the bike: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161293

6km brick run off the bike

6km brick run off the bike

When I had finished, I went for a shower and then returned to the kitchen, so that I could help with some of the food preparation. An Embrace curry night is always to be looked forward to, and Alan’s cooking skills didn’t disappoint. I would love to know his recipe for spinach and chickpea curry as it is amazing!!!


Dinner table conversations

Dinner table conversations © Embrace Sports


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 3

4 Nov

I woke early on Monday morning, although it was nice to know that we had a relatively late start. I felt mixed emotions about what we would be doing.

Monday schedule

Monday schedule

I knew that the trail run consisted of 5 mile loops, and that each runner could choose to do as many or as few as they wanted to. Last time I did 10 miles, and I knew that there would be no pressure on me to do that much as no-one seems to expect triathletes to run… however, I wanted to do better than I did in January, and also knew that I should do some training ahead of Gosport Half Marathon on 17th November. This also needed to be balanced with the fact that I knew I had a tough week ahead of me.

In January, my run started out well at a good pace with Ruth and Dave, but I fell half way around and cut my hands as well as badly scraping my thigh. It really knocked my confidence and made me run tentatively for several months afterwards (as well as giving me a lasting scar on my butt!!!) I ended up having to walk part of the first loop, and jogged the second lap slowly with Eric having to motivate me in the end, so this time I was determined to remain alert and have fun.

Graeme explained the route to us

Graeme explained the route to us © Embrace Sports

We posed for a photo before the start of the run – it’s striking to compare the size of the group with the one in January (see the bottom of my ‘About Me‘ page). I know I was in this picture (somewhere on the left), and I could definitely see the photographer, but there doesn’t seem to be any sign of me!


Trail run Trail run © Embrace Sports

My 5 mile PB (43:21) was set at Victory 5 Mile in September 2012, but my other 5 mile race times have all been between 45:12 and 46:16.

The start of the trail run

The start of the trail run

I set out quite steadily as I didn’t want to go too fast and I know that I need to maintain an even pace. Katie ran with me for a while, but I decided that she as running faster than I wanted to, so I slowed down a bit. This also meant that I was running on my own. I was happy about that as I didn’t want to risk being distracted and falling again.


Running by the wind turbines Running by the wind turbines

At about 7k, I heard another runner coming up behind me. I didn’t want to be over-taken, so I sped up a bit, knowing that we would soon be at a downhill section. Luckily, this tactic paid off as my ‘opponent’ was less confident at running downhill than I was, so I was able to regain my lead. It wasn’t long before I could see the finishing stretch, so I pushed on and was pleased to finish in just over 54 minutes. I was feeling strong and confident, so I didn’t stop for long before continuing onto a second lap.

First 5 mile lap: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161260

Woodland trail run - first lap

Woodland trail run – first lap

I got to near the windmills, and saw quite a few of the others who had decided to do part of a lap before returning to the minibuses. I continued on, enjoying the tranquility. I knew that at some stage, Scott would pass me on his third lap, so it was a little challenge to myself to see how far I could go before he passed me. I suspected that Scott would pass me at 3k, but in the end, I had done  between 5 and 6km before Scott went whizzing past. He looked so relaxed and comfortable despite the fact that he was moving at a tremendous pace Рhe even managed to smile and call out some encouragement.

This was where I fell in January

This was where I fell in January © Embrace Sports

Enjoying the scenery

Enjoying the scenery

When I got back to the finish, I found that only Andy was waiting as all of the others had just left in the minibus. This gave me a chance to drink and stretch whilst waiting for the others. Next to finish were two ladies who had also run 10 miles (Sam and someone else), and then Sandra from Portsmouth Joggers who had run 15 miles. Finally John and Denny came in, having completed 15 miles. I assumed that Scott had got on the earlier minibus, but he had run around with Graeme to pick up the cones, so he completed 20 miles in total! I felt quite pleased that I wasn’t the slowest person to complete 10 miles, and was also relieved that I was feeling significantly better than I had in January.

Woodland trail run – second lap: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161267

Garmin details form second woodland run

Garmin details from the second woodland run

Unfortunately, when I got back to the apartments, I made the mistake of looking on Garmin Connect to see how I did in January: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/268718588 I did the whole thing in 1:49:03, which was 3:02 minutes faster than the 1:52:05 that I managed this year (which is only seconds away from my half marathon PB). The pace of my entire first slap was 1 second per km slower than my average pace in January. I felt so disappointed when I realised this and was torn between the fact that I had actually enjoyed the run and the fact that I clearly hadn’t tried hard enough. Unless I put more effort in, I will never improve and get back to where I was ūüė¶

In the afternoon, we headed to the car park that Eric had used for the running technique session in January. We cycled down there, and then Graeme asked us to dismount and attach our shoes to the pedals. We had to practice running down to the cone and back pushing our bikes… which sounds easy, but we had to steer them by holding onto the saddle. Graeme is an expert at this, but it’s not something that I had tried before. (When we did our 6 ferries and 100km extravaganza, I was wowed by everyone else being able to steer their bikes just by putting on hand on the handlebars – this is not something that I can do with my commuter bike, as it is far too heavy. It was a complete revelation to get my road bike and find that it is light enough for me to steer it just by holding the handlebars.) I found it easy enough to push the bike in a straight line, but it wasn’t so easy to turn a corner. I’m looking forward to practising this with my own bike and will try to remember to only push it by holding onto the saddle, so that I can perfect my skills.

Next we had to practice mounting our bikes by putting one foot on a pedal and swinging our leg over the saddle whilst the bike was moving. As that’s what I always used to do when I was a child, it didn’t seem so bad. The next step was to practice dismounting. We had to swing one leg back over the saddle and then ‘thread the needle’ i.e. swing our leg in the gap between the other leg and the bike. This was a drill that we had practised with Ant during our triathlon training weekend, but it was easier then as I didn’t have clipless pedals and the saddle of my other bike was lower. I’m not very good at doing it – my excuse is that my legs are too fat to give me much room between my leg and the bike frame. Obviously, there are two things I need to do about this – lose weight and practise more!!!

The next challenge was to mount the bike with my shoes already attached. Graeme showed us the ‘triathlon hack’ of attaching our shoes with elastic bands… which was another tip that Ant had shared with us during our tri weekend. Fortunately, when I bought my bike shoes, I chose some tri specific shoes, so they have a large heel loop as well as large velcro straps. I found it easy to get one foot in my shoes (right foot), but I struggled to get my left foot in and I was nervous about leaning over to try to help my foot into the shoe as I was worried that I might crash. Removing my shoes was the easiest part.

At the end of the session, Graeme told us that he wanted us to practise what we had learnt every time we went out riding, so that we would improve and be able to use the skills in a real triathlon. This is something that I am determined to do, as I felt reasonably confident that I had the basics of the skills and I know that I will feel proud if I can show off these skills at my next event (possibly Winchester Duathlon). I’d also like to do another triathlon holiday with Embrace and would like to be able to show Graeme that I have learnt from him.

A selfie from John on the recovery ride

A selfie from John on the recovery ride

In the afternoon, we went for a recovery bike ride. I had assumed that this would make it feel significantly easier than the last ride, but the route seemed quite hilly, which made it feel quite challenging. It was only about 13 miles long, but that was long enough for me!

Another selfie from John on the cycle back

Another selfie from John on the cycle back

Garmin data from recovery bike ride

Garmin data from recovery bike ride

When we got back there was time for a shower before dinner. It had been another amazing, but exhausting, day!


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 2

3 Nov
Day 2 schedule

Day 2 schedule

We were up early for our first full day on holiday as we had to be ready to leave the Giramar by 6:45am. Fortunately, we knew that there would be enough time to eat on our return before heading out for a bike ride, so I didn’t have to worry about preparing porridge. We had been told that the sunrises had been stunning, so we needed to be at the beach early.

Bizarrely, the swimming was the part of the holiday that made me least stressed. I know that I am not a strong swimmer, but I am reasonably confident and I prefer open water swimming to being in a pool, and am not afraid of swimming in the sea (although I did wonder how choppy it would be). I think part of the pressure that I feel is self-imposed as I think people have the same expectations of me that I have of myself. I am a bit kinder to myself when it comes to swimming as I know how terrified I was of swimming until I got my prescription goggles and started having lessons. Given that I couldn’t swim 10m of front crawl in the lake in June, I think I’ve made a lot of progress, and as there is no cut-off I hope I’ll be able to complete the 1.2 mile/1.9km swim at Challenge Weymouth (70.3). I was also reassured that I knew the location where we would be swimming as Ruth and her dad (fellow runners) swam around the rock during our running holiday in January.

We arrived as the sun was rising, which enabled us to admire the spectacular location. I love being by the sea as it reminds me of growing up in Cornwall. When I was stressed or unhappy as a teenager, I loved walking over the towans to sit on the cliffs and watch the sea.

Our first view of Shark Fin rock

First swim of the week

Heading down for our first swim

Heading down for our first swim

We zipped up our wetsuits and headed down the wooden steps to the beach, where we were divided into two groups: those who were confident sea swimmers and those who were not. This presented Stu with a dilemma – he is a very confident swimmer, but apart from Fowey Harbour Swim, he has not swum in the sea. We then swam out a short distance and had to swim back to shore, so that the coaches could group people into similar abilities. I was put into a group with two others, but I did not think that I had finished very close to them and when we started swimming, it quickly became clear that I would not be able to keep up with them. I had wondered whether there would be a huge gulf in abilities between me and the others, but at least the grouping showed that I was not as terrible as I expected. Also, I learned that Jenny had only started learning to swim in February and she was less confident in open water than I am. Andy agreed to swim with me, so I was able to swim a couple of laps of shark fin rock, whilst the others did 3 laps.

I really loved the swimming session. The water was beautifully clear, so I was able to see the bottom as well as lots of shoals of fish. I was mesmerised and it has made me interested in going snorkelling at some stage. Before I had prescription goggles, I missed out on so much!

After a delicious breakfast of porridge, we set out for our first bike ride. I was quite nervous for several reasons:

  • I’m not a strong cyclist
  • I was on an unfamiliar bike
  • I’m still not great with my clipless pedals
  • I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to sustain the necessary speed for the distance of the ride.

Here’s my Garmin data for the first half of our bike ride (Lagos to Sagres): http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161239

Garmin data for bike ride to Sagres

It quickly became apparent that I was the weakest cyclist in the group, and this was even more obvious when we got to any of the hills. My lack of fitness and strength were compounded by my unfamiliarity with the bike and my inability to understand gears. This hasn’t been obvious to me on my Kuota, and I don’t have to think about it on my Giant Escape City as that has numbered gears.

At the bottom of one hill was a cobbled section where we stopped. I had struggled to get my bike into the right gear, so I hoped that when we started cycling again, there would be an opportunity for me to work out what gear I wanted to be in. Unfortunately, I had missed part of the briefing and completely misunderstood where we were cycling. I was aware that a hill was involved, but I assumed it was the long incline at the end of the straight road we were about to turn onto… my understanding was that it would feel punishing because it went on for a long time. How wrong I was.

Kat at the top of The Punisher

Kat at the top of The Punisher © Embrace Sports

We set off and within just a few hundred metres there was a sharp right hand turn, and then the hill was immediately in front of us. I realised that I would have to quickly sort out my gears, but the stress and confusion meant that I started changing them in the wrong direction, which did not make it any easier. By that stage I started feeling very stressed, so I decided that I would be better off getting off the bike and walking up the hill rather than risk falling. It made me really sad as almost everyone else completed the hill challenge (with the exception of Claire, who fell into a ditch at the very top of the hill).

Fortunately, I did not look on Facebook for several days, as I think I would have felt quite sad if I’d seen the photo that was posted (see below).

Look who failed :-(

Look who failed ūüė¶ ¬© Embrace Sports

Clearly, I need to do lots of work on learning how to change gear and to work out what gear I should be in, as well as spending my free time cycling up as many hills as possible.

Anyway, after ‘The Punisher’, we set off again towards Sagres, on some quiet roads through the countryside.

Enjoying the bike ride

We passed some lovely beaches, where surfers were enjoying the waves.

Enjoying the sea views

Enjoying the sea views © Embrace Sports

When we got to Sagres, we stopped outside a supermarket for a rest and sandwich break. I was grateful just to sit down.

Sagres rest stop

Sagres rest stop

Jennie was ready for a little nap

Jennie was ready for a little nap © Stuart Smith

Graeme explained that we were going to do the ride back to Lagos as a time trial, with everyone starting at two-minute intervals. Obviously, I was the first one to set off, whilst Stu was told that he would be the 7th person to set off (out of 9). We had to cycle up to the top of a hill, around a roundabout and then continue on the main road out of Sagres and back towards Lagos.

I set off and continued up the hill, wondering how far I would have to go until I got to the roundabout. Finally, I saw it and turned around. Partway down the hill, I saw my first challenger, just before I passed the group waiting outside the supermarket. I kept going as best I could and was quite pleased that I cycled for about 15 minutes before anyone passed… although I was then passed in quick succession by a couple of the girls. As I neared a set of red traffic lights, John passed me with Denny in quick pursuit. I figured that if it was safe for them to continue then I could as well, so I tried to regain my momentum to carry on up the hill. Unfortunately, part way up a dog ran out towards me barking and snarling. It started snapping at my legs, which terrified me, but it quickly grew bored and went back to where it came from which was a massive relief.

A little while later, another member of the group passed me, but within feet of passing, Max had a puncture, so I passed her again. I then spent the rest of the journey expecting Stu to pass me, but he had exhausted himself on ‘The Punisher’, so he kept Max and Jennie company at the rear of the group.


John was the first finisher in the time trial John was the first finisher in the time trial © Embrace Sports


Time trial qLibsnAEFeDh8u_5-t864C5LMUuSF29MWKo9xKUyUys07z0J2O1BqzgGqOOHbwrSOdM6WsQhODJOc71tWSsbHQJpzy0I0k5xcpgo2bczB04fw7W6i1uGvu8ZpWqphwr_YJennie finished just ahead of Claire in the time trial © Embrace Sports

I was quite pleased not to be the last to finish

DRtko1yxNe1kMOL8gaCa3Qu668Z6licB3j1I9IaiDSkI was quite pleased not to be the last to finish © Embrace Sports

Bike ride back from Sagres to Lagos: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161249

Garmin data back from Sagres to Lagos

Garmin data back from Sagres to Lagos

We stopped just outside of Lagos to regroup, before heading back to the apartments together.

On arrival at the Giramar, we had to quickly change our shoes and go out for a brick run. As we entered the complex, we could see all of the runners lounging in the sun, but our work was not over.

I headed out for the 2km loop with a couple of the others, but I was well aware that I would not be able to maintain their pace for very long. I have not been running well recently, so although my run splits look incredibly slow, it didn’t feel any worse than usual running.

Brick run off the bike: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161252

Brick run off the bike

Brick run off the bike

An ice bath for the ladies

An ice bath for the ladies

We then had enough time to shower and change before Kat did the first of her core sessions. Half an hour was enough to understand how she has such killer abs!!! I’ve always enjoyed core sessions and still really miss the abs and core sessions that I did with Charlton at Bournemouth University, so this is definitely something that I want to continue with.

Core class with Kat

© Embrace Sports

Our first core class with Kat

Our first core class with Kat © Embrace Sports

It was an incredibly tough day, but as the second part of the ride was much better than the first half, I felt much happier by the end of the day!


Embrace Sports Algarve Triathlon Holiday – Day 1

2 Nov

It was an early start to the holiday with a 5:45 wake up, a quick shower and porridge before getting on the road by 7am. As usual, I felt nervous about would be coming up, and also worried that I would have forgotten something. I have a massive multipage Google spreadsheet with packing lists for all occasions that I modify for each holiday. I spent several weeks planning my spreadsheet and the best part of a week packing, but I was still concerned that I would forget something irreplaceable!

On the way to the airport, we passed Neil Garton, who assumed that we were on our way for some parkrun tourism, as he was heading to Bushy parkrun, however we had more exciting sports in mind! We arrived at the airport, checked in and went for breakfast. Finally, it was time to board the plane…

Luggage tag for Faro airport

Faro bound

Three hours after boarding the plane, we arrived in Faro ūüėÄ

Faro Aiport

Faro Aiport

We waited for quite a while by the luggage carousel, wondering who else would be on the holiday with us.¬† The pre-arrival information suggested that we would be picked up with Mel, but we didn’t know who our ‘Embrace representative’ would be. There were lots of elderly golfers, but not many people who looked like they might be runners or triathletes. Finally, our cases arrived and we headed out to meet the Embrace representative. We wondered who it might be waiting for us… It was Alan ūüėÄ It was great to see a familiar face. There were also a couple of others, including Heather, a triathlete, who had travelled from Seattle!

I ended up on the front seat of the minibus, so I got to chat to Alan for a couple of hours on the way to Lagos, which helped me to feel less stressed about what we would be doing during the week.

When we arrived at the Giramar, everyone was almost ready to go out for a run, so we dropped our cases in our room, changed and headed back to join the others. I was keen to get moving as we had been sitting down for so long and I wanted to get some exercise in, however, I was also aware from our last trip that I would find it difficult running in the heat. Our first run was a coastal jog out to the lighthouse. I got chatting to Heather… And got distracted, so we took a wrong turn and had to go back – oops!

Garmin data for the run: http://connect.garmin.com/activity/402161235

Garmin data for lighthouse jog on Day 1

Garmin data for lighthouse jog on Day 1

I enjoyed the run out to the lighthouse as it was a route that I was familiar with and the surroundings are beautiful. The photograph below captures this far better than I can!

Lagos Lighthouse

© Tamarisk Round The World

Heading towards our first regrouping point

Heading towards our first regrouping point © Embrace Sports

The front runners

The front runners © Embrace Sports

Run to the lighthouse

Oh look – there’s me ūüôā ¬© Embrace Sports

Lighthouse run

© Embrace Sports

Lighthouse run - Dushen

© Embrace Sports

Lighthouse run - long view

© Embrace Sports

Lighthouse run group shot

© Embrace Sports

Lighthouse run

It was agreed that the evening meal would be late because some people’s flights were going to arrive late. This meant that we had some time to be able to unpack our belongings and get things ready for the following day which we knew would be busy.

We also had a chance to meet our flatmates – Katie and Bryn. Everyone assumed that they were a couple because they arrived together and already knew each other, but apparently they are just work colleagues.

Katie and Bryn

Katie and Bryn

Before dinner, Graeme explained what we would be doing on the first full day. It sounded daunting, but I knew that I had to retain a more positive attitude than I had in January (I was struggling with depression then and was upset at how badly I performed).

Training schedule for the week

Training schedule for the week

Full schedule for the week

After the meal, Andy said he’d sort out our bikes. Stu was given a Ridley and I was given a Planet X bike. I’d brought all of my details from my Vankru bike fit as well as some basic info, such as my usual saddle height, so it didn’t take long (although it did take three coaches!) to get my bike set up and my pedals screwed on. It looked like a really nice bike, although nothing will replace my lovely Kuota Kharma!


How many Embrace coaches does it take to set a bike up?

How many Embrace coaches does it take to set a bike up?

After dinner, it was time to go to bed as we knew we would have to be up by 6am the following day for a sunrise swim…