ASK THE GOAT: Iceland Race Report, part 1

Aug. 22, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

As many of you know, I began this journey to Iceland over a year ago after linking up with the Runwell Foundation and joining one of two teams planning to cross Iceland.

There were to be eight of us, two teams of three members each, and two solo runners. All runners were to raise a $10,000 donation cap for the foundation, and travel, lodging and registration would be covered. All we needed to provide was travel to the West Coast [Seattle International] or East Coast [JFK International] airports leaving for Reykjavik, Iceland – and the gear we’d carry.

The immediate issue was fundraising. I abhor asking for money. Luckily. for this particular issue, we were relocated to San Antonio as part of a military move. This gave me the opportunity to stage two successful yard sales in preparation for relocation through a local facility.

The owners of the Black Belt Leadership Academy in Tramway gave me every resource required to sell my unneeded goods to help finance my goal. By the end of the second sale, roughly $7,500 had been raised. Between those proceeds and the ones brought in from a charity run on Runwell’s behalf – the Zombiegoaten 5K on Halloween 2012, I only lacked about $1,750.

The people of Sanford provided those funds through charitable donations. In the end, it took less than six weeks to accrue the $10,000. I thank everyone who contributed.

So now I lived in the vast state of Texas, and began focusing on my training and gear procurement. Racing the Planet sent a 21-page packing list to all the competitors. Even after stripping down the items into the most cost-effective articles, the price began to exceed $2,000. Packs, bags, clothes, lights, shoes, socks, medical kits, food and myriad other items kept popping up. Three weeks before the race, a record cold summer actually caused a doubling of certain cold-weather items. Roughly $2,200 of gear later, I had completed my required packing list. I should own stock in REI, as 90 percent of my gear came directly from the Cary and San Antonio branches.

By February, the training which began so well began to falter. I had over-competed in 2012 and was becoming more and more apathetic to exercise, running and the lifestyle that had guided me for three years. I struggled with maintaining my ideal race weight, and was plagued by several DNF [Did Not Finish] results at races I could not afford to miss. I became depressed, disinterested and even quite distant.

Some of you who witnessed me from February through July can attest to the often mercurial disposition I possessed. It wasn’t until I had to get a mandatory physical release for the RTP Iceland trip that I found out, by accident, it wasn’t just a motivational collapse. I had developed hypothyroidism. Perhaps as a result of maintaining such a high level of intensity through 2012, I had literally damaged my thyroid gland. So for the two weeks leading up to Iceland, my doctor (a runner) placed me on a non-invasive oral synthetic that regulated my glandular production levels. I rebounded almost immediately.

On Aug. 1, I flew from San Antonio to New York to meet up with several members of the Runwell Iceland Team. I use “team” loosely, as that grouping dissolved during the preceding months. Two members left the Iceland race while a new member joined. Everyone would be competing as an individual.

We boarded the Icelandair jet and flew across Canada, Greenland and the Atlantic to Keflavik International Airport, 50 kilometers from our host hotel in Reykjavik.

Once there, it was about six hours from the time we could check in, so we stored our baggage and walked the capital city. Iceland, from top to bottom, is stunning. It is clean, well-organized and ranks as a world leader in recycling and conservation. Reykjavik is situated on the Southwest side of the island, opposite the Arctic coast where whale-watching and flocks of puffin are routinely sought.

We checked in and immediately the pace picked up. We were given the itinerary for the following day and the stage information. Each room was shared with another competitor, and although nice, these rooms felt a bit small once gear was spread out and we were forced to move about. Most people went to bed early, although several opted to explore the ‘nightlife’ of Iceland. Keep in mind that at this point in the Icelandic summer, it is daylight 19 hours a day. It never really gets much darker than that near-illuminated “30 minutes from dawn” we see in the N.C. mountains. At 6 a.m. the following morning, it got very real.