Monday, August 26, 2013

Reykjavik Marathon

We just returned from a great 2 week vacation in Europe, with the first week spent in the UK visiting Roanne's relatives and attending her cousin's wedding, and the second week spent in Iceland carrying out general tourism. This was Etta's first transatlantic flight so we were a little apprehensive on how things would go, but she did really well on the plane and only had one or two rough nights getting sorted out with the time change.

The first week was spent staying in a house near the Peak District about 2 hours north of London, and was pretty low key. I managed to get out for a few runs on their footpaths (which consist primarily of hard-to-detect trails running through farmer's pastures, but are better than running on their shoulder-less roads) which was good since I had done an impulse sign up for the Reykjavik Marathon which took place at the end of our stay in Iceland. I had never done a marathon before and hadn't really been training for it, but since I had been getting out for some longer runs in preparation for my planned birthday challenge I thought it might be a good chance to check that box. Aside from running and hanging out with family we explored a few local landmarks, with Wingfield Manor being one of the highlights. Here is a shot of Etta and myself surveying the local landscape from one of the intact turrets.

From the UK we moved on to Iceland, where we manged to have a bunch of fun despite really rainy weather (we had just one day of sun, which we used to climb Mount Hekla). Some of the highlights were having Roanne forget her shoes for our climb of Mount Hekla and doing the climb in a pair of my socks worn over her flip flops (see photo below), lots of hot springs and geothermal activity, entertaining driving over steep, rutted dirt roads in our low-clearance 2WD rental car, looking at waterfalls and sea cliffs, and eating really good fish. Here is Roanne modeling her Mount Hekla footwear:

Here is the cub hanging out at Gullfoss ("Golden Falls"):

And here is the whole family hanging out on the beach:

So, this brings me to the final day of our trip, and the marathon. I was a little apprehensive about the weather given how rainy and cool it had been for our trip (highs in the low 50s), but when I checked early in the week the forecast for race day was an island of 0% precip in a 10 day forecast otherwise full of rainy days. Unfortunately when I checked the next day it had increased to 50% chance of rain, then the next day it had bumped up to 70% chance, and then the night before as I lay in bed listening to the rain coursing down the gutters and onto the pavement below I knew I was in for a wet race.

Race day morning dawned and I got up at 6:30am for a good breakfast of granola, yogurt (actually "Skyr" the more delicious Icelandic version of yogurt), and a banana. I then spent the next hour or so stretching before getting changed into my race outfit which consisted of really long socks, really short shorts, a bright yellow short, and a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes. I knew I would be cold before the race started, but based on past experience if you aren't cold when the gun goes off then you are going to be too hot during the race. I headed out the door at 8:00am for the 20 minute walk to the race start, grabbing a coffee along the way to keep my hands warm.

I arrived at the start around 8:15am, and faced with the dilemma of how to keep warm I decided to camp out in a portapotty and do some more stretching (they had a lot of empty ones so I didn't feel bad about monopolizing one). At around 8:30am I went and got into the start area, situating myself around the 5:00/km crowd since I was targeting a relatively conservative time of 3:30 given my marginal race preparations. The gun went off promptly at 8:40am (it was actually a horn since they don't have guns in Iceland) and it was a really cool feeling to be part of the surge of people moving forward. I wasn't starting particularly close to the front, so it was fun to be able to look forward once we got going and just see people as far up the road as I could see.

The first km was a bit slow (5:15 or so) due to all of the people, but once things thinned out a bit I started to pick up the pace a bit and move more toward a 7:30/mile pace (note that I am mixing time/mile and time/km pacing since I normally go by miles but they had km marked out on the course). As is always the case during a race, I felt really good in the early miles and had to restrain myself from going harder, especially given the temptation of lots of people to pass. I think I did pretty well, and was helped in this by picking out a few people who seemed to be moving at an even pace (mostly women, since in racing as in other things they tend to be more sensible than men) and staying close to them. My sustenance was provided by a bunch of dried apricots stuffed into the small inside pocket in my shorts, since they didn't sell "energy foods" at the grocery store we went to the night before this seemed like a good option, and it worked out pretty well. The km ticked by and I held my pace in the 7:30-8:00/mile range depending on the terrain (there were some gentle hills), with my motivation being aided by steadily working my way past people (I wasn't speeding up, I think others might have just started fast and were slowing).

Once I hit the 20 mile mark my motivation got another boost since I could count down from 10km to the finish, and during the last few km I was able to ramp my pace up for a quicker finish (in retrospect I probably could have gone harder during the race given that I had the energy to ramp steadily up to a 6:15/mile pace by the end, but I guess this is better than a crash and burn) and cross the line still feeling pretty good. Here is the course as recorded by my Nike Sportwatch GPS (I only saw 2 others wearing one, almost everyone had Garmins), with my pace shown by the green line at the bottom:

And here I am in the closing km of the race, hunting down Euros (the people, not the currency) one by one as the finish line approaches:

My final time ended up being 3:23:45 which I was pretty happy with, for a pace of 7:46/mile. All told I had a good experience, it was a fun way to see Reykjavik and a good training outing for my long trail run that I still hope to complete this year (though upon arriving back in Seattle it is now raining and summer appears to be over).


  1. Thanks for this fabulous report and congratulations! (To the whole family as well for making it on the hike up Mt. Hekla!)
    I just read this on Dad's new Kobo Arc e-reader/tablet!