Tuesday, 21 August 2018

I Run Algoma - PB & Run Friends

PB & Run Friends

No, not peanut butter.

  In any runner’s world, a PB is debatably more enjoyable than the PB and J, Mom used to send you off to school with. Not to mention Snack Packs, animal crackers and/or a juice box containing little to no juice at all. 

  Yes. A PB or ‘personal best’ in the runner’s world is a thing of beauty. Known to some as a PR ‘personal record’ these superficial but sometimes physical trophies we acquire during our running careers, become permanently seared in our brain, as benchmarks of success in our humble athletic careers.

  In all likelihood, unless you are an elite runner, the main competition staring you down, will be that person you see in the mirror. Or the one that gets into your head halfway through a run telling you to “stop, slow down and why the heck are you doing this anyway?” I think these two people may be related.

  Your brain is saying, “nobody is chasing you. Remind me, why are we doing this again?” Shut up brain. We have work to do hear. What’s my pace? 

  One of the great things about PB’s? They exist for every runner. As soon as you decide you are a runner and finish your first run. Even if your running career started last week with a 1km jog around your block. Well guess what? That’s your PB for a 1K. Maybe tomorrow you will PB by doing a 2K.

  This is our common thread as the crazy person up at 5am to run before work. The mom running with the stroller in front of them. The doctor who runs 120 miles over 42 hours, breathing in second-hand forest fire smoke while in terrible abdominal pain from an undisclosed injury. No matter the distance, the runner, the story, across the board PB’s are a language we all understand. 

  Like a secret handshake between souls. Bonded by a commonality. We run. We set PB’s. We try to break them. When we do? It’s truly like winning the Boston Marathon which may happen in our dreams but this reality is so much sweeter. This is our thing. 

  I howled like a banshee (also kind of sounded like a Ric Flair - Whooo) when I challenged myself and beat my best 10km road time at the start of May. The good people of Sault Ste. Marie on Bay Street, at 1pm on a Tuesday, had no idea what was going on but I didn’t have time to stop and explain to each of them that, by the way…..
 I just shaved almost 2 minutes off my 10km time I’ve been trying to beat for OVER a year. Whoooooooooooooooo! Thank you, thank you, yes I can sign an autograph, yes I can sign your baby.

  Nobody cares but me. As you read this, I know YOU certainly don’t care and that’s more than fine by me. But I do. I know all the work that has gone into shaving that time.  Pushing myself to limits I didn’t know I had. 

  Oh heck ya, I am still slow. Compared to people doing this their whole life at least. All I am comparing myself is to me. A me from every other time I ran 10k on the road over that 365 plus days. It was me versus all of those other me’s. I feel like a primal scream was certainly in order. 

  This language of PB’s, pace, distance, finishes, DNF’s, elevation gain, and Vo2MAX (which I still don’t understand) connect us all in a way I have difficulty even explaining. This language is the thread that connects us all in this sport that we all know to be hard. We all know it’s hard otherwise EVERYONE would do it. There is a certain pride we all feel completing any run because we know, THAT WAS DAMN HARD. We feel more positive about ourselves, more confident about every obstacle we face in our day-to-day life.

   I think this is why I feel a kinship with everyone that considers themselves to be a runner.  I have friends of friends of friends who I have never met in person but they follow me on Instagram, or Facebook or through this blog. These are “run friends.”

  I absolutely love watching Facebook and Instagram posts about the long training run they banged out on a beautiful Saturday morning. The strong finish in the 5k race they had been training months for. The hill repeats they killed in the 30 degree heat with the sun beating down relentlessly. It’s these little snippets of runner’s lives that can get you motivated to push yourself to great things as well..

  A while back I wrote about taking time off and healing from a hip injury that is insisting it hang around for the rest of my training for France. Although feeling somewhat better now, a month ago this injury had my spirits at an all time low. Even after all the rest I took, I could barely complete my usual training runs without significant pain in the hip, which in addition to my foot have both become a royal pain in the arse. 

I digress.

   Point being, I was at an all time low. I had a training run at lunch, which was less than stellar and I was almost in tears. Not due to pain, but due to the fact I was not able to push myself the way I was used to. Anxiety about France was creeping in and doubt began to swirl as to whether or not I would be able to even start this race, let alone finish it. This was always in question from the moment I was selected. Nonetheless, determined to keep my training program on schedule despite this injury, I trudged through 30 minutes of even more painful hill running on the treadmill at the Y. Thank god this day’s running was over. I was discouraged, exhausted and very frustrated. 

On my drive home, I decided today would be that once every two week visit to check my mailbox for the customary Canadian Tire, Superior Chrysler and Wal-Mart junk mail flyers I throw out immediately. Today though, I would find a random package from some friends of mine in the good ol’ US of A. 

Inside was an inspirational letter and a new running head scarf. A lone wolf emblazoned on the front.


“You continue to uplift and inspire more than you probably even realize”

This coming from a absolute beast of a runner who just completed her first Boston Marathon in 3 hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds. 

Are you kidding me? I uplift and inspire? This girl ran Boston? I couldn’t even dream about qualifying for Boston. If I’m still around at 65, possibly.

Those words, scrolled so beautifully by my run friend Sarah, was the exact prescription I didn’t even know I was looking for. 

Instantly. 

The smoldering ash heap that was my late March into late April running routine re-ignited to a blazing inferno.



I shook off my mopey attitude, grabbed my shoes, put on my new scarf and I got the hell back out there for an unplanned third run of the day, which went fantastic with run friend motivation stoking the fire.

A fire which lead to 3 significant PB’s for me in May. My 10K road (me vs me); my 5K road (Strong Minds Charity Race-Sault Ste. Marie) 3rd place; my 10k trail (Mountain Maple Trail Race-St. Joseph’s Island) 3rd place male and my most cherished PB of all, elevation gain. Me vs 10 loops of Robertson Cliffs as I mimicked the first HALF of what Labor Day weekend is going to look like for me in France – 8 hours, 43 minutes to cover 61KM and over 3,400 meters of elevation gain in the rain - no shame in this game baby. 


Personal Best Moustache!












Side note, 

I watched every last second of that Boston Marathon coverage this year looking for Sarah on TV and wouldn’t you know it…

Wiping tears of happiness away from my eyes, I saw my friend joyfully galloping out of wave three with her dragon braid and “I’m a Dreamer” sweatshirt blasting for all the cameras to see. As rain soaked the entire course that day her sweater added about 10 pounds of weight to the journey. Leading me to believe that had she ditched it earlier, her time could have been under 3 hours, 10 minutes. 

But she's a dreamer and wanted people to know. She dared to dream qualifying for Boston. She dared to dream when she crushed it on some of the worst conditions that race has ever seen. 

I would also venture those hardcore fans who braved that cold and rainy day in Boston, are also some of the dreamers. They came out looking to witness a little magic that day. The Boston Marathon never disappoints.

PB and Run Friends? We all have them. 

We all have each other. 

                                                                                              Get those shoes on……

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Flight of Sun and Moon - Landmannalaugar, Iceland - 55KM Trail Ultra - July 15, 2017

January, 26, 2017

It's now been half a year since I ran this race. Nightly, I dreamt visions of this trail 3 weeks afterwords and I still find myself daydreaming of its smell, touch and taste. This race was across the most breathtaking landscapes my eyes have ever gazed upon. 

On a particularly long training run that may be dragging on, I mentally project myself back to the various stages of this run and it gets me through the monotony of day to day, non exotic location training. Except in the summer and fall because, wow. I am blessed with a breathtaking back yard. I'll show you more later....

8 Years ago I ran a half marathon. Not much since. 

Gained a bunch of weight for no reason.

3 years ago started running again, then as fate would have it work brought me to an area where it fell head over heels for trail running. Which I had never done in my life. The rest is, kinda, becoming history.

I chose this race with the feeling I wanted to accomplish something I always dreamt impossible for me. Like Doc Brown says regarding the DeLorean "The way I see it, if you're going to build a car into a time machine, why not do it with some style" 

Let's run my first marathon in Iceland. Make it an Ultra. 

I read a review from a young woman who said that this trail was "Running Nirvana". She was 100% dead on. This has to be in the debate for the most beautiful place that exists on our planet. If money was no issue, I would be entering this race every year for the rest of my life. 

Truly a sabbatical from earth. It is truly like running on the Moon, Mars, Pluto, Kashiik, Hoth and Tatooine. All rolled into one.

Also anyone reading this should know it was worth 3 UTMB PTS after the fact. Heck ya! Didn't even know it was s qualifier. Check with organizer if 2018 is as well.

So I brought a crappy little knockoff Go Pro for video, some pics from new found race friends and put together a very shaky and non quality windows movie maker video which I leave you the link for at the end if you make it there. Please excuse the quality. I'm an absolute amateur. Also a terrible runner just trying to survive this beast so my main focus was on one foot in front of the next.

I also in the following days of bumming around Reykjavik, took my time writing some point form notes about the highlights I remember from this journey. Of course over some very delicious Icelandic, Beer at Skuuli craft beer bar. Recommend for sure!

For anyone who can limp their way through this rudimentary account of my day on trail, I hope that you carry on to the the half hour video despite its flaws if you are serious about rocking this race in July. Side note - my friends band let me use their tunes for the video and as they were on my headphones most of the way, it takes me right back there every time. 
                                                      www.sunparlourplayers.com

I hope this account provides a little advice for anyone attempting this race for the first time.

Sorry it's long winded and the video is not 4k, HD, 10ADP or whatever you may have been expecting from a reputable filmmaker. I was truly way more terrified about hitting cutoffs than getting any video on trail. Again, I bought a $20 snap video camera before leaving, making it much easier to deal with if I lost it. 

Even with this camera though, I managed to get 4 of my favourite pics I have ever taken in my 39 years. All by accident. 

Peace,

Nick













Flight of Sun and Moon,

Well I've never seen that before.

One side of the plane, out the window was the moon. Pristine. White. Against a canvas of blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

On the other side was the sun setting. The most brilliant orange and pinks I've ever seen in my life. I was about 4 hours into my late night, oddly timed evening flight from Toronto to Reykjavik. 

We descend into Keflavik airport, the guys behind me, had been drinking all flight but still managed to point to a small commotion outside the window. We may have been the only window seaters to notice the fact, there were humpback whales jumping into the air and almost immediately colliding with the cold North Atlantic Ocean water. A sight, that due to lack of sleep and being an animal lover almost moved me to tears at the beauty. So cool. Best trip ever. Already.

*Renting a car is so expensive but I couldn't afford one so, I went with the bus into town. Easy peasey. Pre purchase a Flybus ticket online or when you pick up your baggage. It will take you basically anywhere you need to go in Reykjavik and it essentially runs non stop in Half hour intervals. It's really not that big of a city. I ran it later that afternoon, 3 beers deep and still know it like the back of my hand today. I've been there once. I got off at the Bus Station which is VERY central and easy to find / run to now that I know what I am doing there, however I took a cab to my Airbnb. Also, everyone speaks English. I tried to learn a few things in Icelandic but they just humour you and start talking in English. They are all much smarter than I.  

-I arrive at the Airbnb with zero hassle Cab ride was 6 min. Again. Too easy. My apartment is a 11 min run at a fat guy (my) pace to downtown. Heck ya. Also staring directly at some serious Icelandic Mountains to taunt me once again. See Bryce Canyon writeup.






Basically everything is accessible if you give yourself a 10 min cab ride and thats end to end of Reykjavik. It's a beautiful city. So vibrant and alive. Reminds me kind of like the Cobblestone of old Montreal, QC. 

Did some Exploring, Whalewatching, watched most of "FRIENDS" on Netflix, grocery shopping  (go to Bonus if you are cheap, Haagkaup if you want to shop for "top shelf" groceries) but mainly tried to rest and get ready for the race.

*Race pack pickup / Drop Bag Deposit - Show up to the arena during any of their scheduled times and pick up your pack. Be sure to buy yourself a RACE BUS TICKET to the event unless you want to take a bus a day early and camp over. I HIGHLY suggest buying a meal ticket for the Buffet Dinner at the end of the race. SO GOOD. Chicken, pasta, beef, potatoes, hellz ya. 

NO Jean Paul, Seinfeld issues. I woke up ON time for my wake up call on marathon day. 2am and it's still light out in Reykjavik. Not quite mid day light but definitely early evening type light. 

Big day. I've been training for this day for almost a year. I have no idea if I will hit the (in my mind) very aggressive cutoff times not knowing the terrain. I read blogs of a lot of people who finished the race but also some who didn't make it. That scared the hell out of me. Not finishing in the allocated cutoff times. I had studied that elevation gain chart almost every day for 12 months. Now it's time to tackle it in real life.

I may finish in time but I have to also know I may not. I'm ok with knowing that just attempting this ill conceived venture is madness. Nothing ventured nothing gained. 

I get to the arena for race buses as the second runner. The arena isn't even open. Possibly a tad early but time for hyperventilating, bathroom breaks, snacks, story swapping with other runners. Some lady named Bobbi from Washington scared the hell out of a group of us first timers as she regaled us tales of last years run where she didn't hit the cutoff times and went home without a finisher medial. SHE TERRIFIED ME. Feeding the fuel of my doubt in myself. I should have spoke to nobody. A cute young couple from New York struggled with flight delays and NO sleep leading into the arrival at race bus. They would try to get some sleep on the bus ride as their last resort. THAT scared me. I felt so bad for them. NO idea if they finished or not.

*They bus you in race groups so pay special attention to your bib colour. Get on the bus with your color. Don't forget, a couple weeks before you the race you have to submit your estimated finishing time. Thats how they stagger the start groups. There is a tight bottleneck at the beginning of the race. Get to the front of your pack before the start if you intented to set your own pace. Otherwise, you risk being at the pace of the person in front of you. Especially on the climbs which are prevalent immediately.  

Bus out to Landmannalaugar is indescribable. The scenery is other planetary. I wanted to focus and mentally prepare for what was coming but found myself in full-on tourist mode. I had to take so many pictures. After the breakfast stop (and delay as one of the other buses blew a tire) I really tried to focus on music and meditation but the entire bus was just in awe. All of us chatted jovially about the landscape and I found myself getting more relaxed chatting with the OPTIMISTIC runners from Iceland, USA, Canada and Germany.

No offence Bobbi.You were terrifying with your 2016 DNF story.

On the racebus.. 

-One of the other buses blew a tire
-The bus convoy got lost
-We went off-road with 4 buses who struggled with being off-road
-Several people for some reason smelled like Holiday Inn Express breakfast sausage in close quarters

I didn't buy the breakfast meal based on a few recommendations from other bloggers. I am happy with my decision. My seat mate Siggy lost his meal ticket and had to beg for them to feed him as he had no cash with him. It WORKED! Its very cramped in the line inside the restaurant. I brought food in my finish line drop bag and was so happy I did. I quickly ate. Used the bathroom. Took some pics and relaxed with my tunes.

I kept looking around the bus wondering what everyone was thinking. I knew this was the most adventurous thing I have ever done in my life. Anyone else? Or just another race, country or road trip with buddies? 

As we arrived at the start, it impossible not to have your mouth dropped wide open in awe of the landscapes. Strewn amongst these dream like views were all the tents of campers who stayed the night previous, so they could wake up at the start line. There was something in the air (and not just the sulphur smell-get ready for that by the way) it was a vibe. A communal feeling that we were all about to experience something transcendent, This race would not disappoint.

The bus ride out will take you about 3 hours with one stop on the way so be sure to make use of the bathrooms before your departure, at the breakfast stop and get in line quickly for the portable toilets at the race start line. Those poor toilets took a beating before the start gun.

One by one we all lined up according to our start colours. Yellow, 
Red, Green, Blue. All according to our estimated finish times. I was in the blue group predicting a 9 hour finish, IF I was to finish, so I was at the back obviously. I would almost immediately regret taking such a meek approach in being at the back of the blue group as well. I would / WILL do things differently next time.

They herd you a narrow walkway like cattle and as we all were in position the rain started. Nothing major, just enough to have everyone put up their hoods. 

THE GUN GOES OFF. Yellow group away. We all shuffle up. 5 minutes later, Red group is off. Then Green. Now the countdown to the Blue. 

I've been training for this moment for a year and here I am, 5 minutes away from this getting started. 

I can't stop thinking.......MAN, this place smells like egg farts. 

Apparently the geo thermal activity smells like sulphur. So basically, lets run on a volcano and hope it doesn't blow up? Which if it does, good luck claiming life insurance. We chose to do this.

Also, the hot water in your shower at your apartment or hotel will reek as they are 100% green with their energy use. The hot water is essentially glacial hot springs harnessed for the country for pretty much free. Yes. The HOT water stinks like sulphur and it IS normal folks. YOU don't stink after a shower though. Weird eh? I drank bottled water just to be safe though. Water almost feels kind of slimy but apparently that's the minerals. Anyway...

Almost time.....

Lots of excitement. Feeling somewhat alone being there by myself and none of my friends from the Detroit Wolf Pack with me but this was always meant to be my pilgrimage. I was the one who logged all the time on trail back home and I was 60% sure I was ready to hit my cutoffs. 100% certain I had done everything I could to be ready for this race. Even if I fail, I've won just being here.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1......GO!!!!!!!

I really wanted to get moving. I was so jacked with adrenaline but I could not get around anyone as we were all jammed in like a sardine can. At a terribly slow pace I saw everyone ahead of me funnel gradually into the bottleneck, with several people missing the right rock to tippy toe over a tiny stream right at the beginning. I watched about 4 people completely soak their shoes less than 2 minutes into this race. Maybe it was good I was at the back? I definitely learned which rocks to step on to remain dry for the first climb which happens immediately. 

Single track, black rock and mud, all gain. Your pace is at the mercy of the person in front of you. This was driving me insane. I needed to get moving. In my head all I was thinking was, CUTOFF CUTOFF CUTOFF. I chose not to wear headphones at the start so this was all I kept hearing in my head. I said to myself that the music would be my reward if I hit my first cutoff at 22km and 4hrs. 

Again, immediate climb to start the trail. Nasty and definitely use your hands on knee technique. It was so pretty l going up the bottleneck and from some of the drone footage I had an idea of what was waiting for us at the top but in reality, I can't even describe the beauty of the top of the hill as we emptied out onto that rolling terrain. Absolutely breathtaking to absorb all the majesty of this frozen land. Be sure to take some pics but unless you are elite, be very careful about lingering too long. CUTOFFS ARE COMING...

Despite this reprieve from climbing and the picturesque Icelandic Highlands, my legs felt dead. No spring whatsoever. I was worried I hadn't had enough protein by 5 km in. Not physically a confident start.

I was power hiking the hills where possible as it was so steep and footing was terrible.
The flats were manageable but the overwhelming sulphur smell was giving me a headache. 

The sites are incredible at this stinky portion though. Blue mountains? Come on. So pretty. Apparently it's the copper rising out of the ground that gives it the blue green tinge.

Second hill a lady was struggling to take off her jacket as it was quite warm. I helped her do it so she didn't need to take off her run vest. She was very appreciative. She should have left it on with what was coming very soon. As soon as we hit a flat I got by her and a ton of people catching their breaths after the second big climb.

Weather would be an issue all day. Too hot, too cold. No wind. TONS of wind. Rain, Sleet, Snow, Hail, Cats and Dogs rained down at one point. I couldn't believe some people just wore shorts and a tank. No running vest either. Check out the winner. Dude is badass and wins every year for past 4 I believe. Talk about a home field advantage. He goes on to finish #5 at UTMB CCC later in the summer. BEAST.

Got to top of the third higest incline and then the weather hit. The nastiest wind, sleet, snow, and ice pellets. Oh ya, this was the running in slushy snow portion.

An odd thing happened. My 7 months of running in snow training paid off. Im from a town in Ontario where the snow comes off the lake from October, through April. If you want to be a runner here, this is life. I started picking off runners as they half of them were walking the snow sections as if they were steep hills, even on the flats? I decided to run them. No big deal to me. I do this all the time. 7 months of the year in the back home. 

The ones who were running the snow were doing it on the pre blazed hiking trail. This however was a terrible choice as it was the slushiest route. It took me about 5 steps to figure this out and immediately moved over 4 feet to the fresh snow patched with zero footprints. The snow only had minimal give even with all the rain and was able to support my weight without sinking to my knees. I was able to fly on this section. Each snow stretch would be met with intermittent soaking wet black volcanic rock portions where if not careful you could really hurt yourself. I tripped several times but recovered before
A nasty fall could ruin my day. Dear god people, be careful on these wet black rocks. Terrifying.

At 10k aid station I had a banana and took a whiz (actual bathrooms) and headed back out into the slop.
More snow, more hills, for 5k some of which had massive holes in the snow with no bottom in sight. Well that's scary now isn't it?

Snow looking like it could collapse in on itself with even the slightest footstep on it . I avoided these holes like the plague. Who knows how deep they were.

Then the hills changed to some foreign type of sand /snow/ mud/ clayish type hybrid which was not easy to get a footing on. This went on for another 4 km until we finally hit the top peak of the race.

All of a sudden I was face to face with the most beautiful view I have ever laid eyes on.
Lake Alftavan.It honestly looked like it was a postcard taken by the most talented photographer in the world but it was real life. All of a sudden the snowy rain quit and it was sun. The trail became lined with hikers who take 3 days to complete this trek, all of them stopped to let us go by. Each of them clicking their hiking poles and high fiving us as we passed them getting ready for a huge downhill.

I could see it up ahead. A gravel / clay downhill. Massive downhill which felt like 2k. Probably 1. I absolutely torched it. For me anyway. Hammering down I again passed tons of very skittish tippy toers. I turned on my fat guy jets remembering all of the times I tore down Robertson Cliffs as fast as I could getting ready for this race. This hill finally came out into a flat for 2-4k to the next aid station / first cutoff at 22km. I've never seen a view like that in my life. Actually took my breath away and drew tears to my eyes. Be sure to get a selfie of this view. You won't regret taking the 10 seconds.

At the bottom of the hill, my legs again were scaring me. Hammy issues, calf tightness and I had NO energy. Emptying out onto that flat ground I felt like I could barely move. Terrain was easy and so flat but my legs were stone? Did i hammer too hard down that hill?

I rolled in to the 4 hr cutoff at 2:45 VERY happy to have given myself and extra hour and 15 min to get to Emstrur 38k cutoff at 6 hrs.

Time for some tunes at 22km after re-fueling on bananas, mini cinnamon buns, pretzels and flatter than flat Coca Cola. I made a special playlist on my IPOD for speed. This would now kick my stone legs ass into gear. 

Again there are actual bathrooms at this stop too if you need to make a deposit either way.

We crossed our first river soaker shortly after 22km. Shoes soaked. No way around it. You will have to get wet. As you read this. Make a decision now. Will you or won't you change your shoes and socks at the drop bag station. My suggestion? Do not even bother. You may get a limited amount of time with dry shoes after the drop bags but it WILL happen again. Several times in fact. Your wet shoes will dry. Save yourself the time at drop bags and just keep going after re-fueling on your own pre packed snacks. I switched out beanies as my first one was soaked from the rain and it as this point I WISHED I had packed a scarf, or bandana / buff. I didn't and would regret it later. 

From 22km-38km was awful for me. First 8 was fine with lush green views and my tunes blasting drinking in the scenery. 

After listening to one of my favourite band for almost 15 years, it was truly amazing that hearing Sigur Ros in their own country can really get you even more intimate with the music. Their songs have never been more beautiful to the background of those lush rolling mountains. 

Finally some down hills on this section and Then we come to our first river crossings where a ROPE and volunteers help are necessary. Ice cold water up to the balls and at the end of the crossing the guy in full snowsuit holds out his hand and I grab it. He yanks me out and I pat him on the shoulder. He pats me so hard on the back it said to me, NOW GO GET THIS BEAST OVER WITH and then said something encouraging in Icelandic.

Just after drop bags I got some puppy love from the softest dog I've ever pet. One of the campers was taking it for a walk off leash. Came right up to me as if to give me a boost as well. No idea what kind of dog it was but wow, was she ever soft. Camper was a cutie too. She laughed as I took 10 second off my time to pet her puppy.

Then what I have now named ........................ The Pluto fields. 

This section was like running on jacks in a game of marbles. Every foot strike needed to be perfectly accurate. Take your eyes off the ground to look at scenery and u will have a broken ankle.

This section has trail dust whipping as so bad my eyes were filled with black sand. I forgot my Canada handkerchief which I could have used as a face shield over my mouth so I wasn't inhaling all that dust but live and learn. Won't forget next time. BRING A BUFF!! Sunglasses and or clear lens sport glasses as well. That wind is whipping black sand into every oriface on you melon.

This section was the hardest for me all day. Mentally and physically not to mention technically. I wanted to be able to look at the landscape but every time I did I tripped. I needed every mental faculty to attend to this most difficult part of the trail. 

The flat spots were black sand. The hard parts were jagged boulders. I swear I was on Pluto or the moon. All of it seemed to be a gradual 40 degree incline for 10k. All with sand whipping in your face. 

This was the most draining part of the race. I was asking myself a lot of questions over this stretch. Still feeling like I had zero energy. Did I eat enough protein, did I carb load too much. Should I have had those 5 beers Wednesday nite with my new friend Richard from the plane? Why was I so drained. Looking back now I could have reflected on friends and family supporting me but it I felt all too selfish on this stretch. Me me me. I, I, I messed up. I didn't train properly. I went too hard on the hills up to the 10k mark. I went too hard on the down hills to 22k. Me me me. It was also draining with my own negativity. It honestly felt like 50 miles for that 10k stretch.

Even though this was so draining I had built up enough of a time buffer that I was 90 percent sure i could walk this 10k and still hit my cutoff but that wasn't the point. It was all the doubt. I felt my day was slipping away and I would be a weak ass combination of walking and slow jogging for the rest of the day. Quit didn't enter my mind but worry certainly did. Worry about how shitty I was going to feel for the last 17 k. I had lost the anxiety over my cutoffs but now created a new anxiety about how awful the rest if my race would be to the finish. Let's do a current physical check -

Feet-wet but no blisters. Toes pre treated with moleskin bandaids and liquid bandage were holding up nicely.
Ankles- fine
Calves- a little right but nothing major.
Thighs-fine
Knees- IT on left if not an issue and bruising on right not an issue. Thank you Jason and Patti for getting me ready with treatments prior.
Hammys - right one is a bit of a mess. Pulled for sure
Stomache-pre treated tummy issues as usual with immodium. All good with no tissue issues. Thank god. If you have to evacuate on trail, the rule states you need to poo in a Ziploc bag then carry it to next aid station. I brought one and tp just incase as it's illegal to crap on trail. I don't want to go to Icelandic jail for shitting on their country.  Anyway. No shitssues. Tummy good.
Lower back all good
Lungs finally clear after a month removed from a Utah 50 Miler's trail dust. Thanks Russ.
Arms fine
Neck fine
Head- having issues focusing on positives but no headaches which I started the race with.

Again. Thank heavens for the hikers that were everywhere. Their spirit was infectious. It was a HUGE part of the day for me.  They would kindly step aside on trail and cheer us all on by clicking their poles. A massive boost when feeling low.

I kept jockeying back and forth with this one guy over this stretch and didn't really even think about it except every time he came back and passed me. I finally got so pissed at seeing him pass me, I started hammering my uphills to get him off my back. He did finally fall back and I never saw him again. He was the last blue race bib I would see all day. More on that in a bit.....

I showed up at the water station at a place called Sandar and I certainly know why. Every glass of water they had out, had a full layer of black sand at the bottom. As they filled my bottles I looked forward to a nice refreshing drink of sandy water. As if being in my lungs and nostrils weren't enough. I was basically grinding sand in my teeth and spitting for the last hour anyway. Now I had to drink it as I was on empty. Awesome.

Another 3 km of the black sand and then green hills started appearing again after this other planetary excursion. I could faintly hear some commotion from beyond the upcoming hill. When I finally ascended this hill I could see the 38 km aid station. I looked at my watch and knew I was well within time for the 38 km cutoff. It was a 6 hr max before getting tossed and I rolled in at 4:45. Thank you baby Jesus. I could walk the rest if the way if needed. You can't toss me now!!

There was some commotion between aid station helpers as I rolled in so I took off my headphones and they were saying something frantically in Icelandic. I used my very basic grasp of the language and said Enska? Enska? Meaning English please!!!

The commotion apparently was that I was the first blue group runner to arrive. HELLZ YA! We started in waves of yellow, red, green then us slowpokes in blue. Our predicted finished times were the slowest. But still. They finally told me in Enska and I was overwhelmed with goosebumps and astonishment. Wtf? 

I've passed every runner in blue group after starting essentially as the last runner in the race. I am first in my group? I've never been more electrified. Except for maybe when I saw this aid station had a giant tub of bite size snickers, Powerade and again pre poured flat coca cola. Also pretzels and mini cinnamon buns. 

Did I ever demolish the food at that station. Quickly though. As other blue guy I was jockeying with just rolled in too. One of the best aid station workers ever filled my bottles for me and packed them in my vest for me too as I ate. I had to do nothing except eat snickers and cinnamon buns as she was pit crewing me. It was fantastic. I owe here a huge thank you, whoever you were!!

From this point on, I was shot out of a cannon. A new lease on my race. I was first in my group. This stuff doesn't happen to me. I run to finish these races only. Not to compete. I'm not and never will claim to be a great runner but now I was filled with some very old school competitive spirit from back in the day when I was 18 (I'm 38 at the time I ran this race). 

It was go time. If I got this far first in my group all I need to do is hold off the rest of them and I can put this very tiny and insignificant feather in my cap. Significant to me though. Back of the packer 4 life.

I record a short video just after the first km out of aid station and did a massive Ric Flair whoooooo. The lady in front of me came back half a km to assist as if I needed help. I explained to her I was just jacked at making the cutoff. Then passed her too lol

The down hills kept coming fast and furious. I again, was hammering them. Some of these were so steep they have chains bolted to the boulders so that you may safely traverse down without incident. I think i only used one as I felt like I was floating.

I kept noticing my gains. Was it the tunes? The boost of confidence if being first in my group? or had I just trained hard, studied my race plan and put all of it together with proper pace, hydration and nutrition? I didn't care what it was. I was feeling great. Flying up hills and hammering down. My flat ground pace was faster than it had been all day. 5:20 per k. Nobody had passed me since the last aid station and we are coming up to the 42k Mark. I was now passing some of the yellow red and green group runners now.

The first guy i met that morning at the bus pickup was a guy named. Robert. 

Speaking with him before anyone else arrived I just noted this cocky swagger he had. I didn't like him from the get go but politely let him ramble on about his accomplishments he was boasting of. 

He was probably In his early 50s and as we discussed race strategy and plan he was telling me he purposely put himself into the 3rd fastest group so that he could pass lots of people along the way. It makes him feel faster. Also said that all he trains on were hills back home so today he would be making all of his gains running UP the hills, not hiking them. It wouldn't be a problem apparently for him as he is more at home on 50 miler races he said. This was more of a training run for him. Ho hum. No big deal.

Back on trail...

I start to reel in this struggling salt an pepper haired gentleman walking up a very manageable hill which I was running up I notice it's him. Robert. From the green group. Now he was getting passed by a very humble back of the pack blue group runner.

I pat him on the shoulder as I went by him and said "hey bud, good job" with what I know he received as genuine sentiment from me but in my head all I could think was, you cocky SOB. Never saw him again for the rest of the trail. I think he finished 26 min behind me. Be humble dude. These ultra distances are not to be underestimated. No matter what the race or distance it may be.

I saw him again in the change tent afterwords and avoided him. Did the same thing when I saw him on my bus to the airport to catch my return flight as well. No thanks.

Passing Robert was a massive boost again. Not just him but I kept reeling in green and red runners who looked to be struggling significantly.

My mentor has a mantra which works for him and imparted to me. "Envision yourself as a rabid dog on a chain. The chain has to contain you at first. But at the right time it will break and you will be free to run" I'm very certain I held back at at the right points to reserve myself for that chain to break. 38k the chains were off and I was on the move.

So enthused by my current successes I was singing out loud to the songs on my iPod. I was beaming with a giddy childish grin for the rest of the race. One of my favourite songs came on by City and Color, a fantastic Canadian band called - THE GIRL. A great tune in general but always reminds me a beautiful day I spent watching two dear friends get married. Zee and Mandy you were with me at that moment. You and the wheat.

As I am belting out the words to this song going up a hill, I pass another another green bib, an then a group of hikers couldn't stop laughing at my singing as they clicked their hiking poles in approval. I'm also a terrible singer. I can't even imaging how bad I sounded outside my full blast headphones.

I may have got too "in the zone" with my tunes at this point. Twist my arm by the Tragically Hip came on and I was so jacked I missed a turn on trail. A group of French ladies hiking were frantically screaming at me in French which I actually heard over my headphones. Waving and pointing me in the right direction they were a god send. I understood a bit of the French "arret, arret!!!" having won the French award in gr 9 but it was mainly the pointing that helped. Thank God for those ladies. I woulda been screwed. A la Traverse City again. (Zoned out and went 3k off trail before noticing)

Now back on track I could only see about 3 runners up ahead of me and it seemed that we were all going the same pace. This was not the case. Again. I didn't notice it at first but I was ever so slowly reeling them in as well. After getting past them i couldn't see another soul.

More unbelievable views in the distance lead me to the last aid station at 48k. Omg more snickers!!! Go time. Some dude tried to start talking to me about my water bottles and whether or not they were light? I felt pretty rude just saying yep and getting the hell out of there as fast as I could but, oh well. I was on a mission. Finish as the first blue bibber.

The last 3 real climbs of the day were now ahead of me and I knew that's basically all I had left for climbing. The rest would essentially be downhill with a little gain here and there. I looked over my shoulder and about a km back I saw a blue bib. This guy was my only competition for first in our group.

Trying to hold this guy off I pushed harder on the hills the I ever have. Passed more people and extended the gap almost 3 k away from the other guy. He walked the hills.

Then the reward for all my hard work on these last 3 hills. 3 very steep down hills which I was able to muster up enough quad strength to blast down. This came out into a beautiful site. A very rocky flat stretch that lead to the final assisted river crossing of the day.

After the last rope river crossing it all turned to trail that looked exactly like my route at home.

From here on out the final 5k was lined with spectators and hikers alike. The best parts were the little kids. It's like they had all got together to decide they were going to hi five all the runners as we got closer and closer to the finish. Again. This was a massive adrenaline boost. The final few hills felt like nothing. I was still floating at this point knowing I would finish way beyond my predicted time. First in my group.

Johnny Cash's version of HURT by Nine Inch Nails came on. It drove me harder.

Kids hi fiving. Hikers clicking poles. Spectators clapping.

Joel Plasketts "A Million Dollars" came on next. From one of my all time favourite movies "One Week". This was one of the movies that inspired me to do this race.

I was flying.

Again, I stopped to pet a beautiful golden retriever with 2k left. The family was laughing their asses off at me as I got some more puppy love. I kept going.

The trail was so familiar to me as I turned the last corner. It looked exactly like home.

Then I see it. The finish. I pulled out my small camera to record my crossing. Tears filled my eyes as I finished in 6:hr 45 min.

The race staff immediately dressed me with the medal i'd been dreaming of for a year. They exclaimed in Icelandic that I was first in my group!! Then in English. Then the warmest wool blanket I'd ever felt was draped over me as a woman looked me directly in the eyes and said. WELL DONE. REALLY. WELL DONE CANADA.

From here it was to the post race food tent for so many more snickers, cinnamon buns and oranges.

Then to the men's change tent. So many Euros with units blasting and not a care in the world. Tunes rocking, Whiskey, Brennevin and vodka being drank straight form 40 pounders. Beer cans crashed together and spewed like a stone cold Steve Austin match. It was paradise. Save for all the male nudity.

The post race showers provided were a magnificent touch and I was able to clean up and get changed into more comfy clothes that should never be allowed in public. I was hideous and essentially dressed like Ralphies little brother in a Christmas story.

I grabbed my gear and headed to the finish line to cheer on the other runners with my 2 THULE beer I brought from home.

It was all so surreal and still is as I write this today.

Significant song boosts for me during the race. Check them out if you need to shake up your playlist.

North-Sunparlour Players
Wake up-Arcade Fire
Sigur Ros-NY Batteri / Song 8
Eddie Vedder-Hard Sun
Alexisonfire-No Transitory
Eddie and the Cruisers-Running through the fire
QOTSA-No one knows

The Tragically Hip-Fully Completely / Twist My Arm

I even forgot I had a ticket to the buffet that I had pre purchased. So after dummying 2 plates of Icelandic chicken potatoes and pasta. It was time to catch the bus back to Reykjavik for a night on the town to celebrate. 

This city is electric even at 3am. You have to get here at least once in your life. 

Skuuli Craft Beer Bar is the BEST.

This race was a testament to the human spirit, will and determination. 

Got a dream? I had one. It was to run this race. It was not an easy process. Which makes it all so much sweeter.

In studying the race plan for a year I anticipated my time to be roughly around 9 hours if I hit my cutoffs at 22 and 38km.

I never could have dreamt I would finish in 6:45. 1st in the blue group. 1st male Canadian. The first Canadian overall was top female. 

I was 30th for my age group. 120th out of 488 who finished.

Go get your dream. It's all possible.

Time is not money. Time is life. That's all we have. Spend it wisely people. This life we live is too short to waste.

I'll be back. See you in 2019 Laugavegur. I'll be dreaming of you until then.

Peace and love.

Again, very shotty race video but please understand my concerns were on CUTOFFS not videography. 

Best band ever scores the entire video. My boys, the Sunparlour Players. 

www.sunparlourplayers.com

Entire race video here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTNisomy7g0

The leisurely side of Iceland  - Trip Video here
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5dbmYQ7vtI

Follow my UTMB CCC journey here!
www.bearinmindrunning.com