Today was the most challenging technically, but a relatively short distance. We’d get cold and wet some more, see icebergs calving and be chased by the sea.
To the park
After breakfast we boarded the bus and headed to Vatnajökull National Park where today’s race would take place. It was cold and wet again, which was becoming rather tedious.
We disembarked at the Skaftafell Visitor Centre and tried our best to get warmed up.
Briefing. Ready, steady, go
Giorgio gave us the customary briefing and warnings of staying on the trail and falling the markers.
We assembled at the start point by the campground and before we knew we were off and running.
Quickly we started climbing…and that would be for the first half the race. Although in fair weather we would have spectacular views over a glacier, today not so much.
This was the best we were going to get:
Up and up
Soon the field spread out. It was still an amazing experience and we climbed through the mist. It was windy and cold but it felt great to be alive. At times it was hard to see any trail, so there was not a lot else to do but follow the orange markers and trust in them.
Eventually the course was taking a hard left, so the doc was there to send us the right way. Finally the climb became less strenuous as we started to traverse along the slope.
By now I was pretty much alone as we started our descent. I was passed by one of the older French guys. Respect to them; I want to be running like that when I’m twenty years older.
The trail led down and I caught up with Belgian Chris. As we descended we hit the gorgeous Svartifoss, but there was no time for photos. There were lots of bemused tourists hiking to and from the falls and a few stood by giving us looks or respect (or pity).
The final stretch of the path was a lovely downhill with a view over the campground. Despite my best efforts to catch Chris, he wasn’t having any of it and handily out-kicked me across the grass to the finish.
A quick clean up and then I headed to the visitor centre to get some food. A few of the others were already relaxing there. I got some soup and squeezed onto a small table with another tourist. Hot and tasty after the run, I was soon warmed up. After I bought some postcards and returned to the bus.
To the lagoon
It was time to see some icebergs. We bused to Jökulsárlón. Originally there had been a plan to offer a ride around the lagoon (something I did in 2004) but due to a boat breakdown there was not going to room for the group. Plus apparently the new owners were a bit crap and getting tickets a nightmare. We were therefore reduced to just walking the shore and admiring the ice from dry land.
We weren’t there for as long as I’d have liked, and soon we hopped in the bus to take us to the actual ocean shore. There we found huge stranded blocks of ice and tried not to get washed away.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at another lagoon, which hadn’t existed when I was here in 2004, which showed the power of nature (and climate change).
Up to now, the weather had been pretty grim. An Atlantic storm had been battering the country since we arrived. There had been spells of no rain, but not much sunshine. Driving around on the bus had been pretty miserable and felt bad for the first-timers who weren’t seeing much other than cloud where mountains and glaciers should have been. Luckily things would change the next day.