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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Iceland

Now that things have finally settled down, I thought I would share our honeymoon/elopement with you! The planning of the elopement has been stressful and the paperwork took me months to
complete, but it was worth it to have an unforgettable ceremony in a country that is too beautiful to put in words.





The trip was planned around our wedding ceremony, which was July 17th. The requirement for Iceland is to turn the marriage documents in person 5 days before the actual ceremony. So, we spent the days leading to the wedding exploring the country.

This was our trip:

MONDAY through THURSDAY




We made Reykjavík our base for the first few days of our stay. Our accommodations were at The Loft Hostel. I had never stayed in a Hostel before and it seemed like a great way to save some money, I think the better course of action would have been maybe a night or two to get the experience, not 4. The Loft was very nice and clean, but having a room full of strangers on trip with my fiancé; sleeping in bunk beds was not exactly what I would call romantic. But, it was a great base because the only time we were there was to sleep and at that point sheer exhaustion took over.

We explored using a rental car from Avis, we picked up once we landed.

Day 1 was traveling from the states to Iceland. The flight was around 6-7 hours total but with the time change we landed in Iceland 11 PM Icelandic time. The awesome part of that was, it's summer in their country and also the land of the midnight sun. Having daylight the entire trip was fantastic for sight seeing but took a good couple of days to adjust to the time change.






Day 2 we spent the day exploring the capital. There were enough sites in and around Reykjavik to spend an entire day exploring. We saw Hallgrimskirkja, a beautiful church downtown. We walked to the shore to take pictures of Sólfarið and checked out some of the adorable little shops in town. While exploring, we found Nauthólsvík Beach; a geothermal pool and beach right in the capital. We noticed the locals soaking in the geothermal pool, then hoping into the freezing cold ocean. I put my feet in the water and gained a new respect for the tough Icelandic people I met. That day ended with one of my favorite experiences of our trip; a long soak in The Blue Lagoon. We made reservations that day for dinner and the pool because it's not possible to get in without doing so. It's worth planning ahead, the food was unbelievably delicious and the experience of the lagoon was amazing.


Day 3 we headed west. My goal was to get to the west fjords, but I seriously underestimated the time it would take and the stops we would make. Our exhaustion got us as far as the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, but the views we saw there was other worldly. Along the way were falls and horses and more sheep than I had seen my entire life. We passed trolls, ancient churches and rivers colored with gray glacier water.





Day 4 we drove the Golden Circle and did a little bit of puffin searching. We ventured off the path a bit and found some rocky beaches, ocean pools that originated from troll legends, underground volcano pockets and miles upon miles of barren lava ash fields that led to cliffs with hundreds of birds. The background for the drive was enormous mountains and volcanoes so high the peak was above the clouds.

Day 5 was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. We ventured to Þingvellir National Park and snorkeled in Silfra. The waters were some of the most clearest in the world and how often can you swim in water straight from a glacier that flows between tectonic plates? The water was a balmy 35 degrees Fahrenheit; we were completely outfitted in wet suits but by the end my lips were completely numb but I will never forget that experience. We used Dive IS and our guide Maria was fantastic. The price isn't Ísbúð Huppu.   Our accomadations were a cute little studio apartments at Selfoss apartments where I would have loved to spent another night or two. 
cheap but it's worth paying to experience it. After the dive, we visited geysirs, waterfalls and craters as we made our way to Selfoss. Here we ate the most delicious ice-cream I have ever put in my mouth. When you visit Selfoss, don't leave without grabbing a cool treat at

Day 6 was spent running through the highlands of Iceland for an ultra that kicked my ass. The race covered the Laugavegur hike that covers the Iceland highlands and takes you to mountain tops and more of the beautiful varied landscapes of the country. 


Vik
Day 7 was the busiest day of our time in Iceland. We started off early in the morning in the beautiful coastal town of Vik and spent the day making our way to the east fjords of Iceland. Vik was my favorite place. The beaches were filled with basalt, rocks, caves and legends of trolls. The beautiful ocean was held back only by the coal black sand that seemed to be infinite. I could have spent the entire trip exploring those beaches but there was so much more to see. Past Vik was Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon just off ring road. The lake is filled with glaciers and you can take boats onto the water to get up close to them. From there the icebergs travel down a short waterway and into the ocean but not before washing upon my favorite black sand beaches. Never will I be able to see icebergs on a beach and climb on them, unbelievable. From the icebergs we continued to make our way east, stopping at cliffs to search for puffins and explore the rocks that lined the coast. We ate dinner in Höfn which was a cute little town that had delicious local cuisine. 


After filling our bellies, we continued east toward the Fjords and made several stops along the way to explore waterfalls and beaches. The surprise was when we arrived at our accommodations, after miles and miles of enormous mountains and cliffs along the ocean we were surprised to find ourselves in a forest that surrounded a beautiful lake. I chose Hallormsstaður National Forest as our location by sheer luck, I had no idea how beautiful it was. We spent the night at Hotel Hallormsstaður, and I want to tell you online did not do this place justice. The hotel, the food, the forest was gorgeous. 











Day 8 WE GOT MARRIED!!! We spent the day heading back toward Vik and had our ceremony at a hidden waterfall tucked away near Skogafoss. After the ceremony, we spent the evening exploring more black sand beaches and making our way back to the capital to wrap up our amazing trip. 





My bible while in Iceland
It's impossible to capture the beauty of Iceland in pictures, it's other worldly. There are so many landscapes spread out through a place that has less people than sheep. I spent a good amount of time researching before the trip and even more time with my nose stuck in a lonely planet book I purchased at the airport.

To end the summary of our trip I thought I would offer my top 5 tips for a trip to Iceland. 

1. Iceland is expensive! Everything costs more, so plan to spend a lot. There are ways to save but don't skimp on the diving or the blue lagoon or the local food. 
Our rental

2. Rent a 4x4. I read so many reviews saying you won't need it, but there are some places we wanted to go that required F-road accessible vehicles. Spend the money to rent a vehicle and upgrade to a 4x4.

3. Make an itinerary. I don't usually like to plan but there are so many things to see and time is limited. We started early every morning and didn't stop until late every night and we still didn't see everything we wanted to. You will need more than 8 days and you will need to plan well to fit everything in.

4. Take a coat. Even in summer the winds can be strong and the air can be cool, especially when it rains. Take a coat, take a jacket and lots of layers. You won't regret it.

5. Enjoy the kaffi! I joked the entire trip about the coffee in Iceland being my favorite, I was sort of telling the truth. I could not get enough of their coffee. Every gas station and restaurant had espresso machines and made the yummiest cappuccinos. Try them while you're there if you're a coffe drinker. Delicious!

I would be happy to answer any questions you have or give advice to anyone thinking of going, just leave a comment below!!!




Photos courtesy of my talented wife, Jackie 💗

Friday, July 21, 2017

Failure

For the last several years I have pushed myself to my limit.

Each race I signed up for, I  go into it with the knowledge that it's going to hurt and I will suffer.  Every race there is anxiety about whether I trained enough, whether I ate the right foods and if I would be able to go the distance. To me, that's the exciting part of a race, not knowing what is going to happen.
Base Camp

Last weekend I embarked on my first ultra marathon. I signed up because I have completed marathons and that challenge didn't scare me like it did in the beginning. This race, terrified me. I read the race information, I printed off a training plan and I started training at the beginning of the year. I stuck with my plan hoping it would be enough to get me through the 55 kilometers. I was wrong.

The race started at 5:00 AM with a long bus ride to the base camp where the start line was located. Over 400 people lined up for the race with start times beginning at 9 in the morning. The beginning of the race started with a short ascent up a mountain with a single track path which meant there was a line of runners trudging together in a single file. Once you made it up that incline the view of the course started coming into view, my legs suddenly weighed a ton.

The views
 
The first 10K of the race was excruciating, continuous climb. I don't mean like a, "oh wow this is hilly", I mean I had to use my hands to climb the course in some places. The highest ascent reaching over 3,000 feet above sea level. The views were unbelievable but impossible to completely take in with a 4 hour cut off looming. I snapped pictures when I could and would pull myself out of my misery on a few occasions to admire the unbelievable sights.
Runners ahead

Now, I kept telling myself once I reached the peak that would be the reprieve. Wrong again. At the top we were hit with rain, sleet and snow and had to run in miles of snow which made my already exhausted legs scream for relief.

Every up has a down and as much as I looked forward to the descent this is where my trouble began. I ended up twisting my ankle several times going down the hill which led to a serious imbalance. The imbalance I felt in my right knee, which has battled several rounds of Patellofemoral pain syndrome, and from that point further I had a little hitch in my gettyup.

At that point I was limping but made it to the first cutoff, stopped to use the first facilities I had seen, and got back on the trail. I saw flat ahead so I was relieved but quickly realized the flat was long spans of black sand/
ash and winds that made the sand turn airborne. At this point, I was rotating between running and walking because the pain in my knee and ankle kept reminding me I was no where close to the end. I struggled for the next 10k. I knew I wasn't going to make it to the cutoff in time. I pushed myself and spent miles almost in tears and other miles so angry I pushed through the pain.

The end result was as I feared, I made it to the 6 hour cut off 27 minutes too late, limping and completely defeated. I was borderline on hypothermia, completely soaked and fighting back tears.

I had never not finished a race. I know everyone finds comfort in different ways and most people have said making it to that point is an accomplishment but it's hard for anyone to understand the sacrifice and training that goes into a race. Not finishing is something in the back of ever runners mind but it's always worst case scenario. It's hard to deal and hard to bounce back after that. But, I will.

I have another try at my first Ultra finish in October. The race is local and will be 40 miles on terrain I typically use for training. I am going to pity myself for the rest of this week then get back at training and try it again. I come away from my first DNF having learned things about myself and hopefully stronger because of it. I know I gave that race everything I had and eventually I will go back and try it again. I had an amazing experience in a gorgeous country and challenged myself more than I ever have before. Defeat is a scary and painful pill to swallow but it makes the successes that much sweeter!