Here’s my race report for Ísland extreme triathlon (Iceland) with all the long boring details and numbers. If that interests you keep reading and if not scroll on by. The race ended up being 4000 yard swim, 112 mile bike 4,700ft gain, and 26.2mile 5,100ft gain. It is a self supported race, so no aid stations set up all over the course. You have to have a support team that takes care of all your needs during the day.
I arrived to Iceland on Sunday, six days before the race. This gave me plenty of time to get adjusted to the time change, check out the course, and enjoy Iceland. I had my TriDot workouts for each day and also my coach Kurt Madden wanted me to try to get in the water everyday. Even if just to sit in for 30 minutes, he wanted my body use to the cold water. The first couple days the weather was beautiful, shorts and t-shirt weather. I was lucky and our house was on the bike route and a block from the ocean where I could go and swim. I checked out the bike course and rode sections of it. Drove over the run course and scoped out where the swim was to be held. The first time getting into the water took my breath away. It was freezing! The temperature was in the low 50’s. I wore all my cold weather gear that I would race in and it was still cold. The water stung my face like a thousand needles jamming into at once. I immediately thought I’m never gonna be able to swim in this for 2.4 miles. But after about 15 minutes in the water everything got numb and it was manageable to swim. Everyday I went and swam and the time being cold kept getting shorter. By Thursday I was playing in it and body surfing the waves. But as I kept getting use to the water each day the air temperature was getting colder and the wind was picking up. Now it was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and very strong winds on the bike course. Thursday afternoon we were told the swim spot was gonna be changed because the tides were bringing in giant lion mane jelly fish. The swim was now gonna be held in a lake a few miles up from the original spot and that the water would probably be a little warmer. This also meant the bike course would be shortened from 121 miles down to 112 miles. I totally understood the decision since this was an extreme race and race directors have to make changes for the athletes safety.
Friday morning was the race social swim. The weather was cool and cloudy. The talk of the swimmers before we got in was how the weather looked for Saturday’s race. It was predicting mid 50’s temp, rain and strong winds. Aaron the race director gave us a talk before swimming let us know how the course bouys would be set up and that the water doesn’t get deep in the lake. Getting into the water I immediately realized this water felt much warmer than where I had been swimming. It was around 57 degrees. Since swimming in low 50’s all week this felt like bath water. It out a huge smile on my face that this wasn’t gonna be bad at all. I swam out about 500 yards and off and on I could see the bottom. I stopped tried putting my feet down and sure enough I was about chest deep. Now I knew if something went wrong on the swim I may be able to touch bottom. After the swim I went out for a quick bike session. It was very windy in spots and I was getting blown around quite a bit. But the course was one big loop and with driving the course the wind was constantly changing so I decided to stick with deep wheels for the race. As I was finishing up my ride my two sherpas who had landed earlier and were just arriving in town passed me. Got back to the house and glad to see they made it safe and with all there luggage. We went over the race details for the race and waited for the pre race meeting. Since I had to do Norseman the following week the plan for this race was to take it easy. For the swim I could swim at race speed, the bike and run I couldn’t let my heart rate go over 135bpm. I knew for the bike I would be ride very close to race pace, except for a couple hill climbs where I might not be able to push my normal race power. But the run and how hilly it was, I knew I’d be doing a lot of walking. At the pre race meeting all details of the race were gone through and they got us in and out of there so we could get back and try to get some rest before the 4:00am race start.
I got a little bit of sleep but I kept waking up and checking the clock. Finally got up around 1:45. Got some breakfast, loaded up the car, and headed to the swim start. It was cold, windy, and it was starting to sprinkle when we arrived. My immediate thoughts was this was going to be a long day if the weather stays like this. We unloaded the car and walked everything down to T1. We found a great spot right where I’d be running up from the swim. I kept all my gear in a bag and didn’t set up my transition area since it was sprinkling and I still wasn’t sure what I would be wearing because of the weather. Plus I didn’t want everything to be all wet. Since the water was still probably in the high 50’s I decided to still swim in all the cold weather gear. I wore booties, 3mil neoprene vest under my full wetsuit and a full hood on my head. I didn’t wear any gloves or put any aquaphor on my face. My face never felt cold at the practice swim so I knew I’d be ok. Shortly after getting all suited up the race director opened the fence to let us walk the quarter mile down to the race start. Walking down the road I could see they had a couple barrels on the beach with fires roaring in them. All the racers and support mingled around the barrels trying to stay warm. Aaron the race director let us know the swim was going to be 3000 meters because of the water temp and safety reasons, but the course was set at 3500 meters. Reason for the 3500 meters was because of how shallow the beginning of the race was and that we’d have to walk out a couple hundred yards before being able to start swimming. Before the race started they had someone with a drum and they started a Viking chant that they did before going into battle. All the racers and support joined in on the battle chant and we were ready to go. They got all the racers to the beach start line, another person started playing the bag pipes and bang! Everyone took off in a slow jog down to the water. Once we hit the water we did walk a couple hundred yards in knee to waist deep water. Once we started swimming the water felt perfect to me. We were to swim in a clockwise direction around two bouys and than back to the beach. They told us to sight of the house on the edge of the surrounding hill and that we’d end up seeing the bouy. After swimming a few hundred yards my hand hit sand. Dam another swallow spot. Everyone was jumping up and trying to jog. This gave me a chance to look closer and finally see the bouy to swim to. This little sand bar only lasted about twenty feet and back to swimming. Got to the first bouy turned around it and started trying to sight the second bouy. Finally saw the second bouy after a few hundred yards of swimming. Got to it and head back towards the swim start. This is where it was hard. With the weather being cloudy and behind the swim start was a little jetty of land and the ocean behind it. This made it all look the same with nothing standing out to sight to. So I couldn’t see exactly where to go. We were suppose to be sitting off the barrels of fire but since it was cold, all the support people were around the fires trying to stay warm, blocking us from seeing the flames. The good thing was I found a couple places where I could stand and I finally found the fire and started swimming to it. My hands finally hit sand and got up and made the two hundred yard jog back to the swim start. My time was 4000yds, 1:07 for 1:41/100y, which I was very happy with this time and my support said I was around the top ten getting out of the water.
The jog up to T1 my body was very warm so I started getting out of all my cold weather gear. The only problem was my hands had gotten pretty cold and were completely numb. It was like I didn't have the strength to close them and make my fingers grab on things. I thought oh well they will warm up and start working eventually. Got into T1 got out of the swim gear and into my tri kit. The weather was still rainy and cold so I put on leg warmers, arm warmers, a jacket, skull cap, shoes covers and gloves. I had to have help getting on my gloves because I still wasn’t able to use my ring and pinky fingers. Every time I tried to put on the gloves those fingers went into different directions because I couldn’t control them yet. Finally dressed and ready to go bike.
Getting on the bike I was feeling good after having a great swim. Started going and realized my heart rate was at 141bpm and I should back it down. I started climbing a little hill and someone passed me. I was like nope this cant happen all day today. I started to push a little more power and knew once I got to the flat portions of the course my heart rate would level out and I’d be in the zone I needed to be in. As we started going down the hill I noticed the guy who passed me was up on the hoods and not attacking going down the hill. I dropped down to aero kept peddling and flew right on by. After about eight miles I got into the town where we were staying so I knew this section well and fly through town with no problems. After our town you came into a section that had Arctic Terns, these birds had nests at the sides of the road and were not afraid to dive bomb you. The area looked like a bird war zone. Dead birds scattered across the road from cars hitting them. While hundreds of others were flying above you. I rode this section a couple times prior to the race and got dive bombed and chased the whole time riding through here. As I got close to the section there was a rider in front of me and I saw the birds starting to hover over his head and dive bomb down at him. I thought maybe if I go fast they will stick with him and leave me alone. So I picked up the pace flew by him and got out of that area as fast as I could. The plan worked great with no birds diving down at me. The course was fairly flat with only 4,700 for gain (since I’d been doing training rides with 11,000ft gain this course felt flat). The big factor was the wind and rain. At times I’d be on a flat section and I’d be going 28mph and barely pushing power cause of the tailwind but than it would change and I’d be going 14mph with a crazy head wind. The good part was there were no big gusts, a good steady wind. When the side winds were hitting me I could just lean into it and keep going. One of the craziest spots biking I was going down a hill and had a strong side tail wind hitting me. I felt like I was leaning to my left about ten degrees and my bars also turned to the left about five degrees but I going straight on the road. I looked down at my computer, saw that I was going 48mph and thought if this wind changes I’m going down very hard. The bike went very smooth and I actually looked forward to seeing some hills to climb because I was getting bored just biking in aero. My support did an awesome job getting me my nutrition. I would see them on the side of the road grab an empty water bottle and throw it at them. They would start running next to me and hand me off a fresh bottle. I barely even needed to slow down. I did the bike in 5:39 and averaged 19.8 miles per hour.
Rolling into T2 I felt good and was ready for the run. My support was there to meet me and had all my stuff ready to go. For the run we had three options. We could have our support run the whole thing with us, they could also meet us at the half way point and run back with us or we could run it alone. Jacob wanted to do the whole run with me which worked out great. This way I’d have someone to talk to and made the time go by a lot faster. I got my shoes and run pack on ready to go. There was mandatory gear we had to carry in the back because of the weather changing. Most of the gear that was suppose to be in the pack I was wearing since the weather was still cold, windy, and raining off and on.
When we were leaving T2 Jacob said he thought I was in the top 10. This made me want to push hard on the run to see where I could end up but I knew Norseman was the following week. I also didn’t want to kill myself where I wouldn’t be able to compete for the black finishers shirt the next week. We started out at a good pace and my heart rate was right where it needed to be. There was a small hill out of T2 and I was able to do a slow jog up it and kept my heart rate down. After this it was a fairly flat run on a paved road and trails for about a mile or two and than we started to go up. The run course now was a round seven miles up and than six down. The road was a dirt and rock road right up the mountain. As soon as we started to go up my heart rate went up and we had to walk. It would level off a little and we could start jogging again. After about a mile of this we saw another racer and their support behind us. They caught us and passed us, I told them they looked great and keep pushing hard. This was how it went for the next eight miles. My competitiveness wanted to race and I hated not being able to put up a fight. But I stuck to the race plan, put a big smile on my face and tried to give some motivation to everyone who passed me. Once we got to the top and started heading down we noticed it was a lot steeper on this other side. We basically just did a slow jog down. We got to the bottom and had to run to the turn around that was a rocky and wet mossy trail. Heading back and getting to where we started to climb again it was even steeper than I thought it was gonna be. So again it was a slow walk up to the top. The hard part was the clouds were thick, we couldn’t see the top, and it felt like the climb was never going to stop. Every time we thought we were at the top we would go around a corner and it would still be going up. We finally reached the top and headed down. The whole time we kept getting rained on and the wind was blowing hard on the top. By my now my feet were drenched and getting sore from walking on all the rocks so we just took it easy. No reason to bruise up my feet more with another race a week away. Again as teams were passing us we just kept telling them great job and to keep pushing. We finally reached the bottom and had about a mile to the finish line when we saw another competitor coming. I was over with getting passed and just wanted to get the race done. I told Jacob let’s run, my heart rate had been very low for a majority of the run so I knew I should be ok to finish off running. We picked up our pace and Jacob looked back and said it looks like he picked up his pace. So we picked it up more and my heart rate was still staying under 135bpm. Jacob looked back again said it looks like he’s given up. I said let’s just keep this pace and finish off strong. I got to where we could see the finish flags and there was some at the bottom on this grassy hill and another set on top of the hill. I immediately knew this was one of Aaron’s last little things he was throwing at us that we had to run to the top off the grassy hill for the finish line. I heard a lot of people stopped at the bottom thinking they finished and everyone would start yelling that they had I told finished and needed to run to the top of the hill. Run time was 26.2 miles, 6:16 time, 14:22min/mile 5,700ft gain.
Total race time 13:26:19 for 18th place overall. So glad I could be part of the inaugural Iceland extreme race. Everything ran so smooth and somehow Aaron even got the weather to be extreme! As much as I always wanted to visit Iceland I probably would have never gone. But this race gave me the chance for a great race vacation. So I highly recommend adding this race to your races to do.