Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Midnight Sun Run (Reykjavik, Iceland)

On June 24th we arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland for an overnight visit.  Luckily for me the 24th was the day of the Midnight Sun Run in Reykjavik.  This provided me with a great opportunity to do something really cool, run a race in another country!  After researching the race on the internet and finishing up some work on the ship I headed out to look for the race.  Fortunately for me, the map that I picked up when I got off the ship was great for helping me to find the location of the race.  After about a half an hour of walking I arrived at the correct location and registered for the race.  There were three options, 5k, 10k. and 21k (half marathon).  I chose to do the half marathon.  After registering I walked back to the ship and finished up my work for the night.  Around 7:15pm I headed to the mess for a pre-race meal.  While at dinner I was asked if I was going out for the night.  I said yes, but did not mention that I would be running a half marathon.  It's funny to think how I was eating a pre-race meal while my co-workers had no clue as to what I was about to do.

After dinner I went to my room and prepared myself for the race.  I stuffed my pack with some clothing (and my camera) and put on all my racing gear, including my racing flats, my race bib, my RIT singlet, and my timing chip.  Once everything was in order I exited the ship and started running to the race location.  Fortunately my legs felt really good!  In addition, the weather was near perfect (overcast and cool).

Just before 9:20pm we amassed ourselves at the starting line.  At this point they brought out a bunch of pace signs so that people could line up according to the paces they were trying to run.  I stood there trying to figure out what the times were.  Were they finish times, mile paces, or what?  Eventually I decided that they must be paces in units of min/km.  Fortunately the pace signs weren't super critical for me as I just picked out a spot at the front.

Once the runners were organized and the starting signal was sounded, we sprung off the starting line and bounded up a slight incline.  I very quickly found myself in the lead and before too long it was just me and the pace bike.  Since my last two races have been on trails and I haven't been doing  a lot of fast stuff in my training, I really didn't know what I was capable of.  Fortunately my body felt quite strong and I just kept plugging along at a pretty steady effort and pace.  I passed a marker with a 3.  I glanced at my watch, I was about 9 minutes and 12 seconds into the race.  3k in just over 9 min….that can't be right, I thought.  Or could it?  A few minutes later I passed the number 5.  Check the watch…16:20ish.  That seemed about right.  At this point I crossed a bridge and ran along a body of water.  We were gradually climbing.  A beutifull mountain range came into view.  Run for the mountains, I thought to myself.  I passed a field of magnificent horses (earlier I had passed a field of rather large rabbits…strange).  Around 9.5k we seemed to reach a relative high point in the course.  Around this time is when I started to get some pretty good downhill sections.    Use the downhill I thought to myself.  Make up some time.  I kept checking splits even though I wasn't sure how accurate the markings were.  I got to 15k in just under 51minutes.  That was a good sign!   I kept pushing.  I wind-milled my arms on downhills and continued to push the envelope.  Within the last few kilometers I was tired, but not completely tanked.  I could still push, and so I did.  I really wanted to be under 71 minutes (last year at the Harrisburg half marathon I ran 70:50 on a very flat course).  The clock and fans came into view.   Could I break 71 (one day I would like to go much faster than 71, but for now, under these circumstances, sub 71 is ok)?  I put it into over drive and powered down the homestretch.  The finish tape was waiting for me.  I threw up my arms and hit the tape in 70:55.  I did it.  I nearly broke my PR in a half marathon that I didn't really train for.  I mean, I trained, but not specifically for this race.   Basically I just did a lot of running, biking, and swimming over the past several months.  I got myself really strong but didn't do too much fast stuff.  And there was no tapering…heck I have been running up and down mountains nearly every day for the past week.

This style of training and racing is something that I have come to love.  You might call it beast mode training.  You just do a ton of stuff that makes you strong and then go out and race whatever, whenever, and wherever you want.  You can race the track, the road, the trail, even a triathlon.  You might even race twice in one weekend…or twice in the same day (Time Getz style).

And for those wondering about the payback, I'll give you the low down.  The most I have ever won racing in the US has been about $100, a free pair of shoes, etc.  Here in Iceland, however, I walked away with 55 grand worth of prizes.  Now before you get too excited, this was 55,000 Icelandic Krona and it came in the form of vouchers / gift certificates.  I got a gift certificate for and Icelandic Running store that was worth 10,000 Icelandic Krona.  In addition to that I got free admission to another race (I think it's a marathon).  And to top it  all off they gave me a plane voucher for Iceland Air that is worth 45,000 Krona (about $380).  Fortunately I went out for a run the next morning and found the running store.  Hence, I cashed in my gift certificate for a nice pair of running shorts / half tights and a pair of socks.

And oh yeah, after the race I ran across town and met a friend from the ship.  We walked around town till about 2am (it never got dark).  At that point I was starving so I bought a pizza and a coke.  My friend had one piece and I polished off the rest.  On a side note, Joel Witwer and Dave Kelbe from RIT were both in Reykjavik at the same time as me.  Unfortunately we never managed to meet up.  Oh well, maybe next time.

This concludes my time in Iceland.  I, however, do not want this to be my last time in Iceland.  This place is amazing.  It's like being on another planet!  I am grateful that I got to see and experience so much and yet I feel that there is soooooo much more left to explore.  I would LOVE to come back and spend a LOT more time here.  Maybe my plane voucher from the race will help with that!  But for all those reading, if you ever get the chance, GO TO ICELAND!  GO TO ICELAND!  GO TO ICELAND!  GO TO ICELAND!  GO TO ICELAND!  GO TO ICELAND!  GO TO ICELAND!

Any questions?

Iceland, USA, Canada (left to right)

Icelandic Bathroom

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I N C R E D I B L E ! (Isafjordur, Iceland)

Out of the Question
Rings Phony

Those are all of the synonyms that gave me for incredible.  And that is exactly what Isafjordur, Iceland was...INCRDIBLE!  So let's just leave it at that.  It was INCREDIBLE!

I ran up a mountain (the ascent was INCREDIBLE)! 

I stood on top of the mountain and felt like I was on top of everything (standing there was INCREDIBLE)!

I ran down a mountain (the descent was INCREDIBLE)!

I took pictures (they were INCREDIBLE)!

I stood on the open deck and stared at the mountain and saw a whale (again) (it was INCREDIBLE)!

Today was INCREDIBLE, Iceland is INCREDIBLE, life is INCREDIBLE, the God of the universe who created all of this and blessed me with this opportunity is INCREDIBLE!

I N C R E D I B L it?

Summit View

Summit View

Summit View

The descent!

ICE(land) cold water!

Isafjordur and the ship (Queen Victoria) are in the background.

Jam for sale.

The town of Isafjordur

In Town.

Finally made it to the top!
It got pretty steep.
Summit View.  The town of Isafjordur is way down there between those mountains.

Summit View

Summit View

Summit View
Pretty much how I feel after every run in Iceland so far.


Into the Clouds (Akureyri, Iceland)

On June 22nd we ported in Akureyri, Iceland.  Although I have heard good things about Iceland, I was not sure what to expect.  After spending a day in Akureyri, however, I can now say that I am thrilled with what Iceland has to offer!  This place is AWESOME! 

With that said, I was a little frustrated with the start of the day.  Having done a bit of research, I knew that there were mountains that you could hike.  Unfortunately, all of the maps and hiking descriptions that I found were not all that helpful to someone who was unfamiliar with the area.  Hence, I spent the first little while running around trying to figure out which direction to go.  There were some mountains within sight but they weren't super close.  Eventually I decided to just start running up.  Usually this method works quite well.

Eventually I came across a path that followed a river.  I figured I could probably follow the river up to higher ground.  Fortunately my method worked.  As I headed upwards I found a sign for a ski resort and decided to head in that direction.  Ski resorts are in mountains, and that is exactly what I was looking for. 

Fortunately for me the ski resort was closed.  This gave me the freedom to continue my run up the ski slops.  After examining the map of the resort I selected a chair lift and started following it up.  As I journeyed up the slops the route got steeper and more snow-covered.  Eventually the lift ended, but there was still a sizable amount of mountain left to climb.  At this point I followed what seemed to be a set of snowmobile tracks.  At one point I was faced with an incredibly steep slope.  About half way up the slope I collapsed onto my hands and gasped / wheezed for air (it was great!).  After catching my breath I pushed on and before too long I was at the top.  At this point I was pretty much in the clouds.  With an elevation of approximately 3,000ft. it is funny that I never saw the mountain from town.  The reason for this was that the cloud cover was too thick when I left the ship.  Hence, there were a whole bunch of mountains just outside of town that I couldn't really see earlier in the day.  Fortunately, I decided to run up, even though I didn't know where exactly I would end up.  This tactic most certainly paid off.

After spending some time on the summit I began one of the greatest descents of my life.  While the climb to the top was slow and taxing, the descent was fas and furious.  With so much snow on the mountain I bounded and slid my way down in no time at all.  Running down the steep slopes of snow was like a dream…it was like falling with style as I catapulted myself with each stride.  It was sort of like running across a trampoline. 

Towards the bottom of the slopes I even did a bit of skiing.  On the way up to the ski resort I had found some plastic road reflectors lying in the grass on the side of the road.  Realizing that they might be useful as makeshift skis, I carried them part way up the mountain.  During the descent I stopped and tied them to my feet with some sort of rope/shoe lace stuff that I found on the ground.  Much to my delight it worked!  In fact, I got some pretty funny video footage of myself skiing down the mountain on my makeshift skis! 

Although the skiing was fun I reverted to running for the rest of the descent.  After grabbing a drink of ice cold water from a stream at the bottom of the ski slope I hopped back on the road and cruised into town.  Once back on the ship I spent quite a bit of time on the open deck as we headed out to sea.  The scenery on the way out was incredible.  In addition to the scenery I finally got to see WHALES!  This is the first time that I have ever scene a whale and it was pretty cool!  What better place to see one than in ICELAND?

On a more serious note, my adventures in Akureyri have an important lesson to teach.  This lesson is that many times in life we must act on faith, trusting that God is in control.  So many times we want to know what the outcome will be.  We want to see everything laid out in logical steps.  We want a 5 year plan and an insurance policy to back it up.  We are cautious to try new things because we fear that we might fail.  Or we worry day and night about what our future may or may not hold.  The trouble is that this fear and worry isn't very productive.  Thus, instead of worrying we must seek direction from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We won't always be able to see the top of the mountain but what we can do is take one step at a time, trusting in him to provide.

And sometimes, when we finally reach that mountain top, and we look back at the journey, we realize that it's good that we couldn't see everything.  For one, if we had been able to see all that lay between the sea and the mountain, we might have been too scared to start.  Or perhaps, if the future wasn't so shrouded in clouds, we would have been tempted to climb a different mountain, one that may have looked easier, cooler, or more fun.  And so you see, sometimes it is best for the future to remain a mystery.  For without mystery, where is the fun, the adventure, or the need for God?

In conclusion, today was sooooooo good!  I am having the time of my life on this trip.  I feel so blessed.  Enjoy the pictures!

I'm in the clouds!


Now we're starting to get somewhere.

Can you say ICE cold?

Following the chair lift up the mountain.
Up, up, up...

My view during the descent back into town.

That's the mountain I ran up.

Part of the ascent (and descent).