I've noticed a funny thing regarding post-race alcohol. I'm not a big drinker, and on a typical day, three or four beers would put me totally down for the count. After hard races, though, I seem to be largely unaffected by alcohol. I can only surmise that one of two possibilities is responsible for this: first, the body is so desperate for calories and nourishment that any intake is converted, Mr. Fusion-style, into Sparkling Unicorns and whatever other nutrients fend off death. The second possibility is that the body is in so much pain that the effects of alcohol can't even come close to chipping away at the enormity of it, much like shooting at a tank with a BB gun, and that the pain centers of the brain don't even begin to register the onslaught.
In any case, three beers deep, we pack up after the race and admire the Joe/Svein fording skills at a couple dozen river crossings, and then we are footloose and fancy free for the next few days. Most racers are returning to Reykjavik, but Joe and Svein have broken free for some sightseeing and we're all pretty excited to go get amongst it.
The weather has finally cleared a fair amount (could've used that during the race...), and we're rapidly aware that we're surrounded by a stunning environment. All glacial and volcanic, green-smeared sharp black mountains plunge straight down to raging braided riverbeds. In every direction.
Also near þórsmörk
Once we're out on the ring road (only real highway in the country), we quickly fall victim to Sightseeing Attention Deficit Disorder. This is a part of the country that Svein hasn't spent much time in, so he's as curious to see stuff as we are, and the end result is screeching to a halt damn near every time we round a corner because some [cliff, waterfall, glacier, etc] displays impossible attributes and we have to stop Right Now.
At some random roadside waterfall; hard to tell that we ran 55km today!
Iceland is tiny: it's about the size of Kentucky (thank you, Wolfram Alpha), but it's got so much natural wonder packed into it that it'd take us years and years to feel like we've seen it all. This is due in no small part to the fact that a lot of the amazing stuff is quite difficult to access, which is good, because paved roads and parking lots are the devil's playthings.
Bonus points for finding Svein
One of the mandatory stops is at Skógafoss, but by now we're nearly nonplussed by yet another gigantic roadside waterfall. One bummer is that there's a neat-looking trail up the side of the waterfall, but Ethel and I are not exactly in fightin' shape, so making it to the base of the fall seems like enough of a triumph.
And of course, every turn down a side road brings new jewels. It's apparent to me that we're barely scratching the surface, and this is one of the eternal dilemmas that comes with traveling for races. Before a race, you want to stay off your legs and stay fresh, which is largely incompatible with tramping around a foreign land. After a race, stepping up onto a curb is a Big Task and you're too shattered to do much besides spoon Nutella into your gob, which is also largely incompatible with exploration.
This is a single frame from the middle of the pano below...unreal green
Much green (click for bigger)
There's really only one solution to this: flyaway races should be part of ~6wk holidays, such that there's ample time to race well, recover well, and still see the dang place. I'm currently accepting applications from patrons who commiserate with me, and I've also mentioned this to my boss, but somehow things are not happening at quite the pace I expected :)
The next few posts will be full of our hobbling adventures throughout various parts of this spectacular country. Despite my whinging, we did manage to pack a fair amount into our twelve days there!
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