As I sit with a sheet of food calorie and weight calculations before me and a thousand considerations running through my head, the fact we are heading off to run across Iceland in just one week crystallises into reality. Last December, when I first agreed to join this expedition, June seemed forever away. Since then not a day has gone by without Iceland on my mind.
Iceland On My Mind
At times I am excited, imagining the miles which will unfold beneath my feet. My mind conjures images of rugged landscapes, snow capped hills, flowing rivers, hot springs and mud. I see us laughing and crying as we battle across an unforgiving landscape. Mainly I see positivity and an experience which will leave us with memories to last a lifetime.
But not everyone shares this positivity. Understandably some of our friends and family are concerned. Our trip will be remote and is unsupported. We have been unable to find places to send food drops to (I’ll come to why in a moment), so we will be carrying 17 days worth of food as well as all our gear. We will have to cross said rivers, run through the snow and mud and deal with the inevitable tiredness and hunger.
The reason behind the lack of food drops is that we are going early in the season. Ok, we are going before the season. The highland roads in Iceland don’t open until late June/early July. So mountain huts are unmanned and vehicles are not allowed to cross for environmental reasons. The team at safetravel.is summed it up nicely in a couple of messages to us.
Making it as safe as possible
I am not going out to Iceland to ‘try’ to run across the country. The aim is and has always been to complete the run. There has never been an ‘if we don’t make it’ option in my mind. But blind optimism alone will not carry us over 400 tough miles. The team have been training hard. Perhaps too hard, as Steph and I both discovered by getting injured. However, those injuries taught us a lesson. We backed off the training a little and are both (almost) fully recovered.
Between the team of four we have two personal locator beacons(PLB). These not only allow our friends and family to follow our progress on a live map but also mean we can summon help if needed. Two buttons allow us to send a message to chosen contacts to tell them we are ok or that we need help but are not in life threatening danger. Another button sends an SOS to the emergency services along with GPS coordinates for our location.
Steph has done a stellar job of plotting our route carefully on the map. I will be plotting it on Mapometer and dropping the route onto my Garmin. The route will show on my PLB live map (I will be putting the link on this site before I leave), so anyone can follow our progress. Steph has also sent our entire route, with fantastic detail, to the Iceland Safety team. They now know where we expect to be and when.
We have all thought our gear through carefully. I have spent many painstaking hours researching each and every piece of kit to make sure it is the strongest, lightest and best I can find. It is tough to add things to our already laden packs but if it is needed it’s going in.
Depending on who you ask the river crossings could be a skip across shallow water or a difficult and dangerous obstacle. I feel there will be a mixture. Most of our route follows the 4×4 tracks which cross rivers at their most shallow points or have a handy bridge. For the trickier ones a friend has given us invaluable advice (and a rather large drawing) to assist us in the decisions we take to cross safely.
When I first saw the messages from the Iceland Safety team my heart sank. Were we taking on an impossible task? My mind needed time with this one. But slowly I mulled it over and turned it around. People have conquered far tougher trips than this. If each time someone went on a challenge they were put off by warnings well, there would be no such thing as exploration.
I now know the very worst it will be. We may well spend 17 days being cold and wet. Our feet may be numbed from crossing glacial rivers. We may struggle through sand and windstorms. Certainly we will be hungry as we cannot carry enough calories to keep us in credit throughout the trip. I am currently calculating that I will take in 2000 – 2500 calories a day. We will be burning two to three times that. At worst each day will be brutal.
That is what I am mentally prepared for. So, if some days aren’t as brutal, if some days the sun shines, our feet get dry and the wind drops…If I am ready for the absolute worst then anything which eases our journey will simply be a bonus.
I’ve truly had a great time getting ready for this trip too. It has been a huge learning curve with so many things to think about. Steph and I have got used to super early starts to get our 9 mile pack runs in before work but we have always done it with a smile (and some squirrel screaming one day this week!). Brew has been less amused at being woken before 6 am but he loves his runs with us when we are out there.
My last post before I go will contain a link for my tracking map, so don’t forget to check back! This Bank Holiday weekend I plan to buy the final extras and have all my kit laid out ready to go. Some of my food is pre-portioned but to save money I will be making my own individual breakfast portions (75g oats, 35g freeze dried fruit and 25g dried milk if you’re interested!) and portioning up the giant tub of freeze dried vegetarian tikka I have bought.
Sweet snacks will take the form of my own recipe energy balls; made up of equal parts peanut butter, set honey and dried milk. A packet of veggie jerky each day will give me protein and salt and vinegar peanuts will add fats (and flavour) to my diet.
The team are all feeling positive and messages constantly fly around as we check final details with each other. This time next week Steph, Sophie and I will be flying out of Luton to meet Ruben in Reykjavik.
Now all I have to do is fit everything in my pack and get ready for a huge adventure!
Never Miss An Adventure!