I'm guessing you've heard Iceland is beautiful, amazing and somewhere you should definitely visit. I'm here to tell you that it's just so much more than that. After IRONMAN 70.3 Steelhead I ripped on over there via WOW airline where I think I paid around $320 for a one-way ticket (bags, bikes, food). I believe the flight was around 9 hours but it could have been 10 since I really can't remember (google says 10 hours). Anyway, Iceland can be best viewed with your own eyes so put it on the top of your list and find some great prices on tickets.
22 Days in Iceland
Last year I had the pleasure of racing Challenge Iceland, which was sadly erased from history after it was canceled for 2017. Now, you can't even see the results...so it's like we never raced. During that trip, I was paired with two lovely hosts who made my trip remarkable. Not only were they cool with Karen making a surprise birthday trip to visit, but they also gave us the best taste of Iceland we could imagine. (link to the last blog) So if Challenge Iceland is canceled, whey did I go? Honestly, I just made a good excuse and didn't think twice. I'm racing an extreme 140.6 distance triathlon, Patagonman, in December. I figured I might as well try and place myself in the wind, rain, and cold temps while knocking out a huge adventure. Karen and I ran the Reykjavik Half Marathon and a week later I ran another 1/2 Marathon in the Westman Islands. I feel like I could probably write a small book on this 22-day journey since the people and memories are both vivid and unforgettable. I guess I just want anyone who reads this to get beyond these awesome pictures I'm posting here. Make your own trip to Iceland!
- Week 1 -
Since I arrived on a Tuesday and Karen was coming on a Thursday AND I was still incredibly sore from the previous 70.3, I laid low and once again found my way around our local hangouts. First I HAD to get some of the best sourdough bread I've ever had from Brod & co. Then I just tried to spend some time swimming, stretching and taking in the crisp, clean air. The temperature would be in the 40's in the am and maybe reach a high near 58 during the day. It was perfect running weather, especially since Florida had been feeling like 90-100 degrees each day according to the heat index. My luggage for this trip was mainly warm cycling clothes since I knew I would be spending a lot of time in the cold and most likely wet weather. Either way - my legs were trashed but I really wanted to give her a solid push since the weather was so nice.
Reykjavik Half Marathon - I really wanted to run a 1:16 and for about 16 kilometers I was on point. However, I think since I really wasn't expecting much, I also slacked on my preparation for this race, mainly dealing with hydration. When I limped her in at 1:18 I was in all sort of muscular pain...like my engine ran out of oil. I did my best to get in some near-beer, get my dry clothes on and warm up but I just couldn't. I had a 1-mile walk back to the house where I really thought I was going to have an issue. I couldn't feel my hands and my shiver-level was damn near 500%. All I could think was "great, now I'm going to be sick for a week". After a 30-minute scolding shower and a 2-hour nap in my Pewag puffy jacket I was finally warm. After my INFINIT Mud shake, I was even better - for real!! So I went out hard with a great group of runners, learned a bit about pain management and overall - had a nice day. I think I finished 11th. Oh, and Karen hit up the 10k with Steinunn while Yngvi grabbed some awesome race pictures.
- Week 2 -
I knew we didn't want to simply explore Reykjavik like our last trip, I wanted to visit some cool pools and see some new sights. We decided that since I wanted to check out a pool in Hfsós, we would head north and visit the second largest city in Iceland, Akureyri! I rented a car and we ripped up there in about 4 hours or so. I was able to connect with a super fit athlete, Gunnar, who proceeded to kill me on a trail run not 2 days after my half marathon. I repeatedly told him when we were talking "I'm really going slow, maybe even 5:30min/km or more" however, everyone wants to beat up the pro triathlete. The next morning we proceeded to take 2nd KOM on a grueling, steep 8' part of the trail....so I was pretty much-questioning retirement. The downhill portion was even more embarrassing since Gunnar pretty much gapped me by 1km per minute going downhill...he was like a freaking mountain goat. After the run he proceeded to blow my mind by telling me he had an Air Bnb in Hfsós AND he would help us change our manual transmission Kia to an automatic (so Karen could SAG my bike ride) since he knows everyone in Akureyri. I mean holy crap I meet the most amazing people! Before we headed out of town we ate some expensive, mediocre sushi, bought awesome hand-made sweaters and plotted a course around one of my new favorite bike-routes.
As you can see from the pictures - it was an unforgettable ride. We rode north around the peninsula and after only 2 hours I was ready to get in the car. After the morning run and lame hotel breakfast, I was a bit under-fueled and super tired of riding through freezing, dark tunnels. I wanted coffee and chocolate from the next town! You can see from the pictures yet again, it was just epic - amazing chocolate and food and then finally Hfsós pool....nestled on the side of a cliff. Oh, and the pictures of us walking on the rocks was Karen's idea to walk along this 2 mile-long rock beach until we got to the other side so we could say we did it....and walk back. Needless to say 1 mile in, I was turning back and pretty freaking tired since it was 10pm. It was still something I'll never forget though, we had a lot of fun nearly rolling our ankles, throwing rocks and estimating how much further we had to go.
- Week 3 -
Our trip North lasted only 3 days but we really milked out every bit of fun we could. Once back in Reykjavik we decided to have some local pizza, more walking around town, a few easy runs and some ice-cream from Valdi's. Karen had to rip on back to Florida so I was again flying solo for another week or so. The next adventure beyond the long solo bike rides and group rides + swimming, hot tub, cold tub + 2 hour runs + 48-degree ocean swims - was still going to be MORE epic. I wanted to run a half marathon on the Westman Islands with Steinnun and Yngvi. This would have been a seamless 30-minute ship ride but the weather was incredibly extreme so we had to use a port further away....making the journey last 3 hours!!!! I have NEVER been in such heavy ocean swells, it was just freaking awesome and nope...I didn't puke (even though 180 of the 200 people did). The key is to go outside and get your body used to the rolls while viewing the sea...it really helped. We arrived super late and couldn't really see anything but in the morning I was just blown away with how stunning the sights were and just how freaking hilly this run course would be. The half marathon would have normally had around 50 people but since no one really wanted to ride 3 hours on a boat but a few crazy people, there were like 16 people. We ran in what felt like tropical storm winds, often times being stopped in place while running uphill. Next came the small stinging rain but I'll tell ya what - I'd do it over and over again. It was super fun and since only 16 people showed up, I could def win that race! Oh, and the regular winner (an Olympian) decided to push his little boy in a stroller for 10k so....thanks for that. Not long after the race was over, we were back on a 3-hour ferry ride...again. The sea was even more terrible but yet again, I was playing Lt. Dan on the boat with a death grip to the railing while we rolled back and forth. I was supposed to ride 3 hours before the run but with all of the crap logistics we had to deal with, it was impossible. I was going to ride home from the port but after 30 minutes of riding, questioning if I would be home before midnight...I had to call for a ride and managed to ride 1 hour 15 minutes...where I was blown off the road 2X.
Iceland really welcomed me with open arms. I was training with Kona qualifiers, amazing trail runners and marathoners. The food was never anything but amazing since it was mostly home-cooked and honestly, I cannot wait to be back with my Icelandic friends once again. As a matter of fact, Karen and I are begging them to come to stay with us in Florida so we can repay them somehow.
10 things you need to know about Iceland
- It's very expensive - I filled up a Jeep Grand Cherokee with gas for $140 and a BLT and espresso will run you about $30....oh and sushi for 2 was 100$ (no apps, no alcohol)
- Eat at Brod & co - For real the best bakery...probably worldwide
- Bring a bathing suit - Geothermal pools and amazing swimming at every corner
- Buy a sweater - seriously, you have to wash them with shampoo...it's real freaking sheep hair
- Get out of Reykjavik - Why? I think there are a million reasons......
- Most Icelandic swimmers don't have pool etiquette - I had to "sight" during most all solo swims in the 50m pool because people would hop in and just float....without warning.
- Rent a bike - You can explore all of Reykjavik almost by bike
- Bring running shoes - you can run, hike explore and there is fresh water everywhere
- Jump in the Ocean - It's soooo freaking cold but there is likely a geothermal hot tub nearby (everyone does it)
- Admire the big trucks - Seriously, there are Land Cruisers and Land Rovers everywhere with tires that dwarf me - I want one...I want one...I WANT ONE!
70.3 Augusta 2018
I'll keep this pretty brief since it's more of a stepping-stone race which honestly, could have gone either way in terms of awesome or mediocre. For anyone interested, here is what was like, going on pre-race.
- For one, that whole cold-weather training thing I did in Iceland was just peachy, except for when I came back to Florida. The literal bitch slap left my struggling on the regular. Not only was the humidity something I had all but forgotten while in Iceland, only taking my arm warmers off one time, the red-tide was creating some breathing problems. So, the heart rate is skyrocketing, I can't breathe and I basically feel like I'm falling apart. Looking back, I def tried to make the best of it and overall I think my attitude was decent, often times hitting the trainer or treadmill to try and convince the problems of the outside world. Either way, I needed to get my ass ready for Augusta, which would most certainly be nearly as hot/humid/stinky/sticky.
- Since IRONMAN Austria was a bust and honestly left me more confused than ever, the overall goal, even through 70.3 Steelhead, was to get ready for IRONMAN Louisville. Not that I'm super awesome at longer distances over 70.3's but I need to have some better performances to show progress. This year was supposed to contain 3 IRONMAN events and now I'm down to the last main chance to make it count. I feel like Augusta was the perfect food for the next race, even though I wasn't really on my game mentally or physically, so I'm making oatmeal cookies out of oats....(see what I did there).
- PRE - RACE -
The 8ish hour drive with my lovely wife was just swell. Seriously, we made some awesome time even after the Panera stops! We even arrived 1 day early to meet up with our dear old pal, Jackson Laundry (who drove 19 hours because he's cheap). So this was House #1, which we had for 1 night and it was just super awesome and located in North Augusta, South Carolina (I know...wtf). Jackson and I knocked out our Friday am, sweat-filled sessions then packed up house #1 and headed over to house #2. I rode 40 miles of the course and was actually pretty excited since the 2018 bike course is an improvement (well, after mile 4 at least). House #2 was 20 minutes from the race site located in Martinez, GA. We had a sweet house, plenty of room and we needed it since Ivan, my teammate was coming to finish off his last bit of Kona prep. The final key to this puzzle was linking up with TRIBAL Multi-Sport Athletes. I had about 5 athletes racing and Jon/Beth had another 7 or so combined so we were rolling deep.
The pro-meeting, final sessions and race recon went smoothly since we're all OCD and have everything pre-planned days in advance. The shopping was complete, the 50 items needed to race were organized and then it was time to watch movies and get fat. I'm not sure why, but each and every taper brings a whole lot of stiffness, despite Epsom baths, foam rolling and movement. It kinda sucks but at least I know what to expect.
Swim/Bike/Run recap in 1 paragraph
I went out too hot on the swim and kinda lost some pretty solid position. My goal was to stick with Jackson and Ivan but I kinda went off like a champagne cork. I even remember seeing those guys go by me as I was struggling to pull it back together. Sometimes it's just something you have to do...see what it takes to pop and like, don't do it again. I also have determined I just don't like down-river swims since everyone is still bunched together for the bike. By mile ten there were like 12 of us and 2 Moto's keeping us from drafting. This meant a shit load of accordion-type riding and after a few miles of that I moved to the 4th wheel and avoided that nonsense. There were attacks and such but after 10 miles and with a group that size, we were pretty set. If you don't get away within the first 2-3 miles it likely won't happen. Since this race has a fast, flat course I figured I'd just turn off my brain and wait for the run. The bike course really wasn't bad for the 40-mile section of hills. There were some new roads and 1 or two areas that made you wish you'd had lower tire pressure. For some reason, when we all ran into transition, 50 age group swimmers were still coming out of the water, scrambling for their bikes. It was a mess and I really think they need to work faster at getting these people in the water faster - that's a LONG day if you don't start until 9:30!! The run was eventually a grind lacking any sort of enthusiasm or drive. I tried changing my stride, pumping the arms like a madman but in the end, gave in to the heat and finished 16th. Of course, Jackson took 2nd and Ivan took 3rd, totally inspiring and crushing at the same time. You know, after all of the hard work I've been putting in - I just dream of those days when it consistently comes together.
Next up I'm headed to Lake Toxaway North Carolina for some awesome weather, solitude before IM Louisville and some mountains/lake training. After that....70.3 Buenos Aires and finally for my finale in 2018 Patagonman Extreme Triathlon in Chile!