Fire and Ice Ultramarathon -- ALL them questions
Updated: Aug 21, 2019
1. Tell me what exactly this is again...
It's a 150 mile (250 km) race across Iceland, taking place Aug 26-31, 2019. Technically, it's what's called a multi-stage, self-sustaining ultramarathon.
What do those words actually mean? That it's 1) multiple days, 2) carrying our own stuff in a backpack, and 3) a crap-ton of miles.
The route is sort of secret because the race coordinators don't know what it will be until they get on site in Iceland (which they did this week) and see what's feasible. They place flags about every 100 feet so we know where to go.
The miles are broken up to around 25 each day for four of the days, with one long day (should be Day 4 - Thursday, Aug 29) of 40 miles, and the final day with just 10-ish miles. Got a few minutes to see what the race is all about? This official Fire & Ice 2016 video gives a great overview (ahem, and discusses hypothermia): https://watch.endurancesports.tv/videos/fire-and-ice-2016-estv?fbclid=IwAR0hGZwa0sklzvSFkNRfo3ZanXxitOM_LYmaCJ-mRPaud-GU-PkXB77Kj-I
2. Wait, you run the whole 150 miles?
Well, "run" is a relative term for this event. We will run some. Walk/hike at a brisk pace a lot. Hopefully not crawl too much, although crawling is an acceptable means of forward progress.
There are roughly 50 people participating in the race. A few (maybe 10-ish?) will be true competitors trying to win. The rest of us will be just trying to survive. But it is a timed event. Each day's time is added together to give an overall score.
I am doing the race with my friend (of 20+ years) Megan. Yes, she's just as stupid as I am.
3. Why are you doing this?
Why do I do any of the stupid stuff I do? It was a challenge and seemed like a good idea at some point when I signed up for it.
Completely unrelated side note: never drink vodka while looking at ultramarathon registration websites.
Also, for why I'm really doing this, read here. •••••
4. So what do you have to carry in your backpack?
Easily-prepared food for 5.5 days of vigorous exercise (roughly 3000 calories/day. More about that HERE.)
Medical kit (with LOTS of blister stuff)
Running clothes & camp clothes
Misc: multi-tool, toiletries, etc.
5. How much does the backpack weigh?
Will start around 26 pounds, then get lighter as the days go by and I eat more of
my food. Yeah, it's heavy and not particularly easy to run with.
6. Where will you sleep?
In 8-man tents, provided and set up every night by the race staff. The staff also provides us with ample hot and cold water (for drinking and rehydrating MREs) every day.
7. Um...what is the bathroom situation?
This is the #1 question I get asked, believe it or not.
We will have toilets with flushing water at the camp all nights except one where it bathroom will just be a hole in the ground (which happens to be after the LONG 40 MILE DAY—nothing like adding insult to injury). We do not have to carry out any of our waste, but we do have to bring biodegradable TP/wipes. But, ahem, you know... what if you have to use the bathroom while you're in the middle of running your 25 miles in the vast plains of Iceland?
Yeah, there's just no pretty way around that. Suffice it to say that I've done enough miles on German trails that I am fully capable of squatting with my 26 lb pack still on and relieving myself. (no pictures. You're welcome)
But Janie, Germany has lots of trees for privacy and Iceland doesn't...
Uh, yeah. I am aware :-|
8. What have you done to simulate Icelandic terrain in your training?
Whelp. We've been warned by the race directors about the terrain and the need to prepare as much as possible. (It's called Fire & Ice because Iceland is home to both glaciers and volcanoes)
Unfortunately, we don't have a lot of glacial till or volcanic rock here at home. The best I could do was run in the ditch next to our town's brand new paved bike/hiking path. I'm known as the "crazy American who won't run on the path".
I've been called worse.
9. What weather do you expect?
Weather conditions... Ugh, y'all. UGH. We're looking at the 30s-lower 40s at night (sleeping in a tent), and low 50s in the day if the current weather patterns hold. We're hoping, hoping, hoping for as little rain as possible. That's going to make or break this, imo.
We do have pretty specific (and expensive) rain gear, because rain is almost always expected. But the less rain, the better.
10. Can we follow your progress?
Yes and no...mostly no. Individual runners are not chipped/tracked like marathon/triathlons. But the race coordinators will be posting updates on conditions and overall morale on their FB page: https://www.facebook.com/FireandIce.ICELAND/
I also will be posting from my author and personal FB page: