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NEXT ROVING RACE: MADAGASCAR 2014

RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013 Blogs

Stage 6 and Race Roundup
15-Aug-2013 09:12:38 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

This is a bit late in coming, I know, but after the race I was letting the fact that I’d just completed my first 250km multi day event sink in (it still hasn’t, I think!), be a “normal” tourist in Reykjavik for a couple of days, and wait till I had access to my laptop rather than write out a blog entry on my phone.

(Also, correction, last blog I said people were coming in at 2pm, I meant 2am…)

First off, thank you so much everyone for your blog comments and support. Messages during the race were very much appreciated! Especially given how I’ve probably driven family and friends mad with hearing about this for the last few months leading up to the race, thanks for putting up with me! Donations to Forest and Bird stand at NZ$1051, with an additional NZ$99 that I’ve had in offline donations during and since the race, which will be added to the givealittle website shortly. If you would still like to donate, the page will be open for the remainder of this month. If you want to but have had problems with the website, send me an email and I’ll help you sort something out with an offline donation. The givealittle website made security changes to their website that I found out about right before the race, so couldn’t do much about earlier. Many thanks as well to Tasti New Zealand who provided my protein bars for this race – I’m still eating spare ones as snacks a few days later, which is definitely a good thing.

Many thanks as well to Svartifoss, tent 32. You guys are awesome, and while it took me a while longer to get in each day compared to the rest of you, I definitely appreciated that you waited up for me to make sure I got in ok, even if the first thing I did was rush off again to visit the cyber tent before it closed. Michelle, Mandi, Grant, Badr and the others I walked with as well, the support was awesome and definitely helped get through this race during the low points, and I hope I was reciprocating even if, as mentioned during Stage 2, my hopes of being super positive the whole week were shattered by my natural cynicism (which I hope was also somewhat amusing ☺ ). Thanks, of course, to Racing the Planet for organizing such an awesome event, and the medics who kept us on our feet.

Stage 6 was short, just over 9km, a nice change from the longer days. It was quite nice waking up to walls that weren’t enthusiastically whacking me in the head, though I do have to admit the grassy camp sites were slightly more comfortable than the hardwood floor of the gym.

We caught busses to the start line for the gym, which we had a bit of trouble finding, so we started an hour later than we were supposed to. The terrain for stage 6 was about 6km of offroad, single track through basalt rocks covered in springy moss… I usually am really slow on uneven terrain where I can’t see what I’m stepping on, but I felt great and was loving the poles, so I went at what felt like a flying pace (considering I had 240km behind me already, this meant approximately 5km/hr I think). Considering the terrain though, I’m quite happy with how I felt going over that first part of the stage. I was actually a bit disappointed when we came to the road and went on gravel tracks through an Icelandic “forest” ( ☺ ) and lava fields around the Blue Lagoon.

The finish line was, as mentioned, at the Blue Lagoon. I ran the last part towards the finish line and felt awesome. I waited around for a bit to cheer in other runners, but the cold eventually drove me to collect my RTP Iceland fleece (which has met cat approval since I arrived back in Amsterdam), my drop bag, and headed into the Blue Lagoon. What a way to end a race, soaking in a geothermal pool! My legs were feeling pretty good anyway, all things considered, but sitting an hour in the Blue Lagoon still worked wonders. I don’t know if the silica mud we were all plastering on our faces at one stage worked wonders, but it was entertaining, anyway.

So in the end, for my first race longer than a half marathon, and definitely my first 250km multi day stage race, I finished running and with a smile, and came 220th. I’m happy with that!

Quick gear review:
I was quite happy with my logistics and gear choices on this race. I did a fair bit of research starting from when I was first considering one of the RTP events, then tailored to doing Iceland in particular.

Backpack – my Macpac AMP 25 L Race pack was 850g, a bit heavier than it needed to be, perhaps, but super comfortable. During a quick chat with Ake before the start of Stage 4 he was saying the hardest thing each day was putting his pack on. I happily realized at the end that that day was the only day where putting my pack on my back felt like a marginally painful idea. This ended up to be more foresight than actual pain at the time, as stage 4 was when I started having issues getting my hip/waist belt tight enough, which ended up with too much weight on my shoulders until I fixed that halfway through the day. Whoops.

Sleeping bag/sleeping mat – custom made PH Designs sleeping bag (short (good for people to 168cm – I’m 158cm), 900 loft down, good to -5ºC), so happy with this choice! Figured I may as well invest in it, as I wanted to be warm. Cold feet on the first two days, but other than that no complaints. Z-lite sleeping mat cut down to reach from my head to my knees. I think that was a bit longer than the short/petite versions, but either way. Never felt like I needed anything below my knees (though perhaps some insulation below my feet would have helped) and was comfortable enough.

Shoes – Inov-8 Roclite 268. Love love love these shoes! Still! After the race when we all (as Heather happily put it) had elephant feet, I ended up going back to wearing them as they were comfier than the other flats I’d packed. Go figure!

Socks – Injinji toe socks, two pairs ankle trail socks, one pair Icebreaker trail socks. Love the injinji toe socks. The ankle socks didn’t work out as well as I expected compared to training, but after the first day I used them with the injinjis and that worked better (no more ankle blister hotspot!). The Icebreaker trail socks were a little luxury for me that I kept for at camp and for the last day when I expected my feet would be a little over the whole idea of walking some more. Super cushy. ☺

Clothes – 2XU compression tights, Icebreaker Rush Crew, Icebreaker Nature scoop, Icebreaker Nature tights, Icebreaker 260 long sleeve, Outdoor Research waterproof pants, Peak Performance waterproof jacket. Bit of a theme here, but I’m very happy with my decision to stick to Icebreaker. No problems being cold on the course despite the wind and rain. Ended up wearing the Nature scoop over my running top every day, saving the Nature tights and the 260 long sleeve for camp. This worked out well. One problem I discovered with the waterproof jacket that I hadn’t noticed previously – on Stage 5 it ended up streaming water along the side of the hood down my neck. Apparently testing in Totara Park on a night trail walk in pouring rain hadn’t shown this particular feature for a constant, free flow of drinking water.

Clothing accessories – Buff, Icebreaker pocket beanie, Icebreaker glove liners, Kathmandu fleece gloves. The buff was great, I really like them. However, given my above comments about the newly accessible water supply… A cotton buff was a poor choice. Whenever I stopped (Check point 3 to remove sand from shoes after the beach, check point 4 to drink soup) and a couple of times on the course the buff got quite cold on my neck. Either way, small complaint. A bigger complaint was my Icebreaker gloves – they fell apart! I’ve used them heaps in the past few years, so I suppose they were getting on after winters on the bike and running in Amsterdam… But still. Heaps of holes in the fingers and a couple of rips when my hands went a bit swollen, probably from too many electrolytes according to a random discussion after Stage 5. Oh well. They served me well. My fleece gloves saved the day (and my fingers) on Stage 5.

Other – I was quite happy with my hydration setup – the Camelbak hydration bladder in the backpack with a Camelbak podium bottle in a Macpac bottle holder on the front. This worked quite well for me, so that was good. Sadly, my sunglasses broke on the first day, so I ended up repairing them with ducttape each morning or as I needed them on the course (an arm broke off). Like my gloves, these are also well loved, so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise, but they’d lasted really well until now so either way.

Food and electrolytes – Food choices worked pretty well for me as well. A cup of tea or hot chocolate to warm up followed by a One Square Meal bar. After the first check point I’d break out my mix of nuts (macadamia, almond and salted cashew) and jellybeans. After midday would come the Em’s Power cookie. A serving of GU chomps if required, along with a Tasti protein bar and a serving of biltong for the protein at the end of the day. Back Country Cuisine freeze dried meals made up the evening meal, followed by a small treat of a serving of pineapple lumps (definitely appreciated!) and a hot chocolate if I was still awake enough. Admittedly, as the race went on it was harder to finish the last meal because I was practically falling asleep in it, but I was polishing off all my food during the day up to the Tasti protein bar (missed a couple of servings of biltong and GU chomps), so I got almost all my calories. For electrolytes I ended up almost exclusively using GU brew tablets and not bothering with the powder I had, it was just too difficult with the wind and the tablets were a lot easier for my brain to deal with in the morning. Between the food and electrolytes I was able to get up and keep going each day, and I felt pretty good, so that’s fine by me.

All in all I'm happy with how things went during each stage, though the lows at the time felt very low, the biggest two being when I started doubting the strength of my own will power on stage 2 (rather low day mentally) and when I had the super slow day, likely caused by being very short on sleep, during stage 4. The highs had wiped those lows away incredibly quickly though, something which was definitely helped when I realised I could walk practically normally, and even up and down stairs, on the rest day after stage 5!

So all up I’m happy with how things went logistically and with myself during the race. I am completely hooked on these things now, I think, and found it an incredible experience. I have, admittedly, already spent a bit of time looking up trail races in the near future and thinking about a training plan for the next one! I think I’ll spend a bit more time on food preparation and look into other options for electrolytes, though if I don’t get the chance I’d happily do what I did for this race again for the next. Now I just have the terribly difficult decision of which race to do next!
Stage 5!
09-Aug-2013 03:01:42 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

Well that was a long day! I was allowed to start as they have a 30 minute leniency for people coming in past cut off, so my slow finish at the end of stage 4 was ok. The fact I had no medical problems and was finishing strongly was also in my favour. It was raining all that night and the next morning at our camp and was quite miserable, but the next morning they put us on a bus to get across the river with dry feet so we all started feeling pretty good I think. I did, anyway. I was feeling surprisingly good and ready to go the 60-odd km of the stage.

 

That said, I started pretty well and charged through the first and second sections, the first was on gravel road, the second going over hill tracks with rocks and uneven terrain – that I’m not usually that great on but I was having a great time and charged through. After check point 2 we headed into a nasty head wind on the way to the beach and my left Achilles started joining the ‘let’s tell Kristina which tendons are here’ party and was quite painful, but after some painkillers and a stretch out things were manageable. The beach reminded me a lot of my training day at Muriwai, which was convenient, though a lot more wind this time round. Got to check point 3 fairly quickly and all was good.

 

Afterwards was the interesting /difficult part. Between check point 3 and 4 we had some beach cliffs to traverse. These were basalt covered in sea slime with waves breaking, the really strong wind… Ugh. It’s the first time during this race when I’ve seriously thought I might break something. I’ve never been very happy on slippery surfaces, though rockhopping is fine normally, so add in a pack, poles, gusting wind and I was struggling a bit. It took me like 1.5 hours to traverse 2km of beach cliffs. The good thing about this though is that I was so frustrated with struggling through that that I charged on to the next checkpoint within an hour (5km/hour walking). This was checkpoint 4 where we could get some hot water, so got some soup into me and kept going, though I’d stopped a bit too long so my hamstrings felt frozen. The rest of it was pretty straight forward, with relatively flat terrain on tracks, a few rocks I ended up accidentally kicking, but apart from that all good. I kept charging through and finished the stage at 11pm (or a couple of minutes before), so in 15 hours. I’m quite happy with that!

 

I did most of the stage by myself as Michelle and her friend Mandy had discovered reserves to charge through the whole thing at a pace where – unexpectedly, considering I think all three of us expected me to catch up with them while I was drinking soup at CP4 – I couldn’t catch them over 20km. Haha. One particularly entertaining moment, I was leap frogging a Belgian woman, Nathalie, for the last two sections and she insisted I was ahead as I was faster. I did so, then a truck came past saying we had 8km left, then went on to say the same to her, and next thing I knew she came sprinting past me which was quite amusing. I tried to run to keep up but my IT band was a bit painful again so I decided walking was the better way to go.

 

Thanks for the emails, and for the blog comments as well – only just saw them today for the first time! Thanks for those J So great to read all the comments! (Oh, and Lisa, yesterday I was definitely swimming!). Rhiannon, the fact I’m a New Zealander and this makes me nuts appears to be a well known fact over here as well. Is it any surprise that yesterday with ridiculous weather was one of my best days? Haha. Also, I won’t be going climbing until the blisters on my heels pipe down a bit. Just so you know. Because I probably won’t be able to fit my climbing shoes.

 

There’s a huge cue for the laptops so I’ll be sure to send proper messages back from the blog comments once we reach civilization – but thank you so much for them, they’re amazing to read after a long week. It’s a rest day today, as people were still coming in and finishing the stage after 2pm I think, then the last 10km tomorrow to the finish line. Overall I’m feeling – quite frankly – bloody amazing (also, pretty good, haha) as I’ve gotten away with nothing more than a few blisters and the odd tendon pain, but no tendonitis, which appears to be a common thing here. But… Omg. I’ve just done 240km and tomorrow it will be 250… WOO!

 

Ok, time to get some lunch and spend the rest of the day eating and socializing. Not a bad day. J (Also, we’re warm in a gym for the day so no wind/rain/tents to deal with, hooray!).

 

Love you all J

Stage 4
07-Aug-2013 03:06:11 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

So, stage 4... I'm always thinking up things to say during the stage, then I get all in a rush back at camp because I'm among the last back so I need to get food, warm clothes, clean up and check comments/blog all in a hurry so I can get a decent amount of sleep. And even then sleep isn't always to be had, for example at last night's rocky camp site... I ended up hugging a rock right under my sleeping mat all evening and got no sleep which leads to my first comment about today...
 
I started well, if slowly, over the first 1.8km to a lava tube. The lava tube was awesome, spent half an hour meandering through that taking in some geology before heading back out for today's 41km. I walked with Michelle most of the time, and we did well, making it to CP 1 with an hour to spare and CP 2 with 2 hours to spare before cut off time. My IT band was starting to play up so I decided to charge ahead to CP 3 so I could stretch, which was all well and good. Then after that the terrain got rather difficult and I slowed down a lot. Michelle had passed me at CP 3 and I took a while to catch her - got her at the half way point, in fact, where we got eggs boiled in the nearby hot spring!! Nice. I stuck with her and Chloe for a while, but my hip has started playing up a bit as well (hooray tendons!) so I charged on to camp so I could talk to the doctors here.
 
Unfortunately because of the slow start and slow terrain (for me, anyway) at the end, and despite having an extra hour up my sleeve, I finished 20 minutes after the cut off time at camp. I'm gutted by that and hope they still let me start tomorrow. We'll see. My IT band is behaving as long as I stretch it and my hip flexor can be dealt with by shifting the weight off my hips a bit with my pack, so I still feel like I can do it tomorrow. See what they say. There are 9 other people who came in either just before or just after me I think. Oh, and the blisters I can deal with. Lol. They WILL behave.
 
The lava cave was really cool, anyway. I'm glad I got to see that today. Thanks Mum for the update, good to know how those up the front are going. I see Ake at the start line and sometimes at camp when I come in, and he said he was feeling stronger every day. He seems to be doing really well - the front runners have a completely different race from us at the back, they get in at around lunchtime, get a hot lunch, have a nap, have some more food, then go to bed. So they have a really good recovery. Whereas those of us at the back chug along, get in, have food, go to bed. Haha. I'm actually surprised by how I've been able to get up every morning and keep going, it is a bit hard getting up initially, but it was as I said when I came in from the training day at Muriwai, a couple of km to loosen up the legs and I'm set.
 
If they let me start tomorrow despite getting in late today then I'm going to go see if I can do the whole long day in one go rather than stop at the overnight camp. We'll see. In any case I won't be blogging until the day after so don't mind the radio silence, I'll blog in a couple of days I hope. :)
 
Raining here and it's cold and yuck so going to go eat my very overhydrated freeze dried beef hotpot and go to bed. Hopefully my shoes dry out somewhat before tomorrow but I don't expect it... Sigh. Ah well. Grassy camp site so at least I'll get some sleep! Nothing like rain on a tent to send me off quickly. :)
Stage 3
06-Aug-2013 02:23:10 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

Thanks Mum and Claudi for your emails, they’re great to read at the end of the day.

Quick post as I want food, but today has seen the end of stage 3! I started the stage feeling really good both mentally and physically, so that was good. And as a bonus, the weather was fantastic. So it was all going pretty well today overall. Unfortunately my right IT band started playing up in a weird way (not a sore knee but a weird popping sensation below my hip) just past check point 2, which made getting to check point 3 rather concerning. I got to have a good stretch at the third check point then made a bust for the finish line as it was getting close to the cut off (I finished about half an hour before). The end of the final part of the race was huge angular pieces of basalt gravel and apparently a lot of people turned their ankles, but the poles were a life saver. After not being sure how much I’d use them, I’ve used them practically every kilometer of the race so far. So they saved both my IT band and my ankles today I think.

 

Blisters are misbehaving (annoying!) and multiplying (more annoying!), but either way. I’ll manage. Apparently if people finish tomorrow then they’re practically done the race as if you get through the first few days then the long day is mentally easier. I may have finished slowly today, in about 10 hours 30mins for 43km, but I was able to run across the finish line (down hill on a dirt track so was rather easy haha), and felt strong at the end. My IT band had even given up complaining, so hopefully stays quiet tomorrow!

 

The scenery here is amazing. I’ve been taking a few photos, but I don’t think my photos quite portray the scale of things here. We’ll see. In the mean time, time for some food and sleep! Rocky camp ground tonight unfortunately, last night we had grass and it was amazing.

 

Onwards!
Stage 2
05-Aug-2013 04:04:00 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

Just a quick update because the cybertent is closing. Thanks, Mum, for your emails. That’s awesome about Bella and John’s baking :)

Today was tough. I woke up not as sore as expected considering how my muscles felt last night, but I took it slowly at the start anyway. The wind was a killer again. I was fine through check point 1, continued walking on my own and chatting to the odd person I came across, then had to stop and deal with blisters at check point 2. I ended up joining a pair of Dutch (Um, can’t remember names...) and South African (Grant?) guys and made myself stick with them throughout the rest of the day. This proved to be an excellent idea and may have been the main reason I finished, as it was really mentally tough for some reason and I was surprised that my will power was on the edge a bit. My blisters kept causing problems, though in the scheme of things (compared to the injuries the others had) blisters isn’t really all that bad. The other good thing about being with other people was the river crossing – over a bridge – that was quite interesting. It involved climbing  a ladder. Lol.

 

Checkpoint 3 was at the top of a hill; going down the other side ended up with walking along a glaciar lake, which was really neat. There were a few waterfalls, so overall the scenery was more interesting. The last 10km were on a track and the halfway marker before the end was missing so we were quite worried about missing the cut off – as it was we finished in about 11 hours 50 minutes or so! 10 minutes before cut off... That was about 47km I think. Needless to say I’m hoping tomorrow will be a bit easier! And I might have to move the ipod (thanks Dad!) to a front pocket. I haven’t used it yet, but I will probably need to.

 

Anyway, time to get food. Feet have been properly taped at the medical tent so hopefully all will be well from now on.

 

And Lisa, if you’re reading this, ‘Just keep swimming’ went through my head a number of times today. :P
Stage 1!
04-Aug-2013 03:37:11 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

So the check in yesterday was intense, covering admin, medical check and gear check. My bag came in at 10kg exactly, which I was quite pleased by, as it meant my excel spreadsheet was accurate. Claud, I did cut the mat down in the end. After that we had lunch and took busses to camp 1. Camp 1 was impressively windy and cold, and was almost at 1000m above sea level, the highest we will be during the race. My tent mates are a cool bunch. It was freezing all last night and as a result sleep was lacking, but we were still all up at about 5:30am for stage 1.

Stage 1 was supposed to involve a deep river crossing about 8km before the end of the day. By deep I mean mid thigh to hip deep on most people, so it would have been at least waist deep on me. We were greated by the news that, because of the weather, the river crossing was cancelled. This was met with great enthusiasm in general. 

The stage was abiut 45 - 46 km in length and almost exclusively on dirt roads with a lot of rocks waiting to be tripped over - fortunatly not by me, though I did have a couple of close calls. I walked with a few others for different parts of the race, ran a few down hills, particularly to get away from the wind, which was lethal... Had to deal witha couple of blisters as the fine gravel kept getting in my shoes, and ended walking most of the second half of the day with Michelle from the States. I think we were both happy to have someone to walk with, particularly because the last 7 or so km were quite tough.

Near the end I stopped to empty gravel from my shoes and, because of the cold I suppose, my muscles siezed a bit. That made the last part of the day rather painful, but hopefully that will pass. As soon as I got back I spent time stretching and hopefully that will help. The first people came in in about 4 hourd I think. I came in right on 9 hours as I slowed down a lot over the last stretch. I’m happy with that, and definitely feeling better since having biltong nd the Tasti protien bar. Many thanks to Tasti for providing those!

Right, dinner then bed. Emails haven’t been able to be downloaded so hopefully I will see any messages tomorrow.

Kristina :)

All checked in
03-Aug-2013 01:06:46 AM [(GMT+12:00) Auckland, Wellington]

Checked in and now waiting for the busses and about to grab some lunch... The first camp site had to be moved because of wind and rain... Hmm. But otherwise, all is good - and the good news is that my pack weighs 10kg exactly, so my excel spreadsheet (haha) was right!

Should be fun. :)
In transit
01-Aug-2013 02:32:08 AM [(GMT+01:00) Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna]

Well, yesterday I flew in to Amsterdam from Auckland. It felt a bit strange to do the trip in the opposite way I have done for the last 3 years - going from Auckland winter to Dutch summer - but the flight was uneventful and that is the main thing. I was doing everything I could to limit jet lag, and happily I'm finding very few jet lag effects this time around. I've never found traveling between Europe and NZ to be much of a problem, but even the standard tiredness and not eating much is limited this time around.

Of course I could put it down to actually having a decent sleep on the second flight from Singapore, but it is more likely because of the exercise I got playing laser strike that evening after landing. And likewise, my poor performance at laser strike is definitely because of non-existent jetlag.

That aside, I'm writing this at Schiphol airport while I wait for my flight to Iceland! So excited, I've wanted to go to Iceland for ages. I'm happily ignoring the slight panic moments I've had in the last couple of weeks at what I'm actually about to do... Either way, I'll amble along, one foot in front of the other, and I'll get there eventually! And hopefully without turning into an icicle. I'm hoping Auckland's winter will have been similar enough to help me acclimatize, but that may have been ruined by the two days I've had in Amsterdam. It's rather warm here.

Well, before I board the plane, the most important thing in this post: thank you very much to all those who have donated so far, for supporting Forest and Bird. :)
KRISTINA ARTHUR
RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013

Hometown
Auckland, New Zealand

Profession
PhD student/Marine micropaleontologist

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KRISTINA ARTHUR
RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013 competitor

Bio

I am currently working on a PhD in marine micropaleontology at VU University Amsterdam. I study microfossils to reconstruct past ocean environments. I have had a go at a shorter adventure race/orienteering events and runs, but this will be my first attempt at an event of this length/magnitude.

Hometown
Auckland, New Zealand

Profession
PhD student/Marine micropaleontologist

Why are you competing?
To challenge myself and raise money for Forest and
Bird.

Race Stats
Equipment List

Other Races